Table 1

Flavoured smokeless tobacco projects and products

Project or product nameTobacco companyDateNotable findings
Happy Days (raspberry)USST1967Happy Days was launched with “outstanding initial success…especially among younger men”; with a ‘thorough-going product sampling campaign’ promoting product trial.40 Successful launch “…with young men in particular expressing a liking for the raspberry flavoured chew”.41
Happy Days (mint)USST1970–1971According to an internal USST memo, the product was made to provide ‘mint and mildness for the younger starter’.42 Initially, Happy Days Mint was peppermint flavoured;42 by early 1980s, the flavour was changed to spearmint: ‘spearmint flavour that freshens the mouth’.44 45 Instructions, free sample sand sports star endorsements were used to sell the product, with former football player and rodeo star Walt Garrison, soccer player Shep Messing, football player Steve Towie and baseball star Carlton Fisk being the spokespeople for the product, in addition to the other USST brands, like Skoal and Copenhagen.44–48
The ‘Lotus Project’, leading to Good Luck (mint, cherry)USST and Swedish Tobacco Company via joint company, United Scandia International1972Three flavours selected: mint, cherry and regular.49 Four targets were described: current snuff consumers, non-snuffing male smokers, non-snuffing female smokers and consumers not yet using tobacco products.50 USST explained in an internal memo “It is at present ‘with it’ to snuff among young people”.50 USST president Louis A Bantle ‘wanted a Lotus product for the US market as soon as possible’.51
An internal memo described Good Luck as ‘a derivative of the Happy Days Mint blend in a small paper sack’, and ‘moist smokeless tobacco in a bag, a technological innovation brought forth by the Swedish Tobacco Company’.52 The product had to be hand-packed as USST did not have the technology to use machinery for packaging the product, which limited production.53
Hawken (wintergreen)Conwood1979Hawken only comes in wintergreen flavour. The product is drier than other moist snuff brands and therefore has lower nicotine content. According to a 1994 Wall Street Journal article by Freedman,54 in a memo dated 21 January 1980, AH Cameron, one of USST's regional sales managers, reported to the firm's national sales manager that: “Retailers all agree that the majority of Hawken is being used by young adults and youth ‘from 9 years old and up’, which was ‘four or 5 years earlier than we have reached them in the past’”. The article went on to report that USST feared that, once initiated to Conwood's starter product, young Hawken users might graduate to Conwood's stronger Kodiak brand, rather than to Skoal.
Skoal Bandits (mint)USST1983“Indeed, it appears mint flavoured products have an especially strong appeal to new consumers, who are young adults, always looking for something novel.”55 USST aimed to establish Skoal Bandits Mint as the first step in the graduation process and a primary sampling vehicle for USST56 57 “To our knowledge, the Skoal Bandits portion pack in the mint represents the easiest oral product to learn how to handle…”57
Skoal Long CutUSST1984Before introducing the Skoal Long Cut product on the market, USST conducted several studies with users of competitive wintergreen brands, such as Hawken, as well as with Skoal users, to determine the flavour formulation.36 58 The purpose of the research was to determine users’ preference towards a wintergreen-flavoured test products compared with mild sweet ‘natural’-flavoured product and preference towards a test product with higher wintergreen flavour compared with one with lower amount of wintergreen. The research compared a wintergreen flavoured test product to a mild sweet ‘natural’ flavoured one and a test product with a higher wintergreen flavour to one with a lesser amount of the flavouring. Participants rated the test products on several attributes, including sweetness, strength of taste, satisfaction, long lasting taste, aroma, as well as purchase intent. The results showed that users preferred wintergreen-flavoured long cut product to sweet straight-flavoured one on all sensory dimensions.36 Two-thirds of the Skoal users stated that they liked the new, long-cut product better than regular Skoal, with a perceived higher level of sweetness and longer lasting taste emerging as product benefits for those who liked the wintergreen-flavoured product.36
Skoal Flavour PacksUSST1995USST aimed to replicate the success of Skoal Bandits by introducing a new flavoured pouched easy-to-use product.59 The product was primarily intended to appeal to smokers and was ‘designed to overcome the obstacles’ experienced by novices with trial and usage of traditional smokeless tobacco products.60 Flavour Packs were mint-flavoured and the flavour innovation had to do with the fact that the pouch material was flavoured (ie, there were flavour enhancers along the outside of the pouch), in addition to the flavouring of added to tobacco itself.61 Furthermore, the pouches were white, had cleaner, neater appearance than Skoal Bandits; the product was drier, which helped decrease nicotine release and allowed for a longer shelf life.60 The product was not successful; by 1997 it accounted for only 1% of USST sales and was eventually discontinued.62
‘New and improved’ Skoal Bandits (mint, wintergreen)USST2006The new Bandits featured USST's ‘advanced Flavour Flow pouch paper’ and were described as ‘more flavourful, moist and comfortable in the mouth, providing a more satisfying experience than the original’.63 Senior brand manager at USST Eric Fuller was quoted saying that “[f]or years, adult MST [moist snuff tobacco] consumers have enjoyed Skoal Bandits as a more convenient, discreet and easy-to-use MST option. Now, with pouch products enjoying increased popularity among adult MST consumers, and with millions of adult smokers looking for a smoke- free tobacco alternative, the time is right to introduce new and improved Skoal Bandits as a better MST option that fits a variety of lifestyles”.64 The launch of the new and improved Skoal Bandits was supported by a comprehensive advertising campaign in national magazines, a new website, sampling programs, direct mail, point-of-sale materials and 10-can prepacked promotional displays.64
High Country (Project WSS/Wet Snuff Skoal) (wintergreen)RJR1983This project has been described elsewhere.65
Project WSH (Wet Snuff—Hawken-like) Work HorseRJR1981–1982In 1981 RJR planned to test market a mint-flavoured product similar to Taylor Brothers’ wintergreen-flavouredHawken.66 67 The project title was WSH and the similar RJR product was called Work Horse. Focus groups of consumers were given prototypes for Work Horse in several flavours: ‘these prototypes had several different flavour variations (peach, mint, spearmint, wintergreen) with the mint flavour having very high acceptance’.66
RJR further refined two versions of the mint flavour to test with Copenhagen and Skoal (USST competitive brand) users. “This product test is part of a two-part research program to evaluate the WSH opportunity. Concurrently, concept testing is being done on both the Hawken and mint idea.”66
Project MS (Moist Snuff)RJR2001Market research to ‘understand tobacco users attitudes and behaviour in order to assess the most appropriate business strategy, if any, to pursue in addressing’ the dynamic of increasing number of smokers moving to smokeless tobacco category.68 Focus group interviews conducted with male chewers aged 21–59 (skewing 21–35) identified four characteristics as critical to product choice: flavour; flavour duration; product texture (cut); ‘packing’ quality (ie, whether tobacco floats in the mouth or stays in place).69 70 Similar to prior findings, interviews showed that ‘beginners’ wanted ‘a less challenging’, milder, less messy product and were more likely to use flavoured brands like Skoal Bandits.69
Bourbon-flavoured smokeless tobacco productB&W1971Several flavours including bourbon, coffee and spearmint/peppermint were considered; bourbon flavouring was found to be ‘the most distinctive and had the greatest merit for further development’.71 B&W then evaluated several bourbon and whiskey flavours and the best candidate was selected and tested using the Winston-Salem sensory panel. Panel members showed acceptance for the bourbon-flavoured snuff, however, they found that the level of bourbon flavouring was too high. The resulting decision was to develop a sweeter, milder product, which had ‘potential for attracting new franchise users, such as a younger market’.71 72 However, on further testing of the product, it was determined that bourbon-liquor flavoured snuff product would not be a viable market entry for B&W due to the strong negative reaction to the idea of bourbon-flavoured snuff from the participants of the flavoured product/concept test studies.73 The product was rated as having unpleasant aftertaste, strong, gritty, bitter taste that lacked freshness, had too much ‘bite’ and the flavour did not last long.73
Diamondback (Project Rainbow)B&W1991A product position that was chosen was a full-strength, powerful, masculine product for the experienced user in wintergreen and regular flavours. In addition to the position, four names were selected as potentials for the products, including Thor, Legend, DiamondBack and Rowdy.74
On conducting qualitative research to determine the potential brand name, DiamondBack was selected as it projected a strong masculine image that could potentially appeal to young men.26 A Marketing/Sales Support plan was developed; consumer preference model was drafted through target audience definition and perceptual mapping (including a map for all brands available on the market and a separate map for wintergreen products). B&W also planned to develop long cut wintergreen and straight-flavoured DiamondBack line extensions.75 Initial product testing and ‘conversion’ study76–78 showed that “younger dippers [were] not as positive towards the DiamondBack product as older users”.76 A 1991 internal report entitled ‘DiamondBack Conversion Study. Summary Report’ prepared by Kapuler Marketing Research stated that the fact that the fact that younger users were not as enthusiastic about the product was ‘somewhat disappointing’ and could be ‘a function of the fact that image is perhaps more important to this group than to older dippers, much like the “Marlboro phenomenon” among cigarette smokers. The established, high-profile brand is a safe choice over a new, unknown product’.76 By 1992, a series of product test studies for various modifications in pH (strength/impact); sweetness; amount of wintergreen flavour (methyl salicylate) were conducted for the wintergreen-flavoured product to achieve parity with competitive brands; repeatable, reproducible fermentations; flavour stability; lower TSNA.75 79 As DiamondBack was packaged in metal pucks, additional tests were carried out to assure that snuff was protected from metal and metal did not rust.75 DiamondBack was introduced on the market in 1991; however, the product was not very successful and was discontinued by B&W in 1993.80
Skoal Bandits and Long Cut Flavoured Line ExtensionsUSST1983
“Instead of introducing new names, smokeless manufactures [were] adding line extensions to popular brands to increase flavour selection…UST introduced Skoal Bandits in 1983 and Skoal Long Cut in 1984.” Skoal was ‘strictly a wintergreen product’, however, with Skoal Bandits and Long Cut USST introduced varieties such as wintergreen, mint and straight to appeal to a wider range of consumers.81 Tobacco companies recognised that a “key strategy [was] to determine what the consumer want[ed] and to develop the appropriate products and services to meet those wants and needs”. The success of the flavoured Skoal line extensions in the early 1990, for example, cherry and spearmint, suggested that there was a market for additional flavours in Regular, Long Cut and Bandits versions.82 USST President Robert D Rothenberg said the company is becoming ‘very proficient’ in identifying adult consumer preferences and responding to changing consumer tastes, which has played a major part in its overall success:
“For instance, in response to our extensive consumer research, we added to the Skoal family of products two new flavours of Long Cut-cherry and spearmint. Based on our research, we expected cherry and spearmint to appeal to adult consumers of other smokeless tobacco products as well as to existing moist snuff consumers. Today, these line extensions continue to experience phenomenal growth since their 1993 introduction”.83 In 2011, USST launched Skoal X-tra Long Cut Crisp Blend, Rich Blend, Wintergreen Blend, Mint Blend. In 2012, Skoal Neat Cut Mint, Straight, Wintergreen flavours and SkoalReadyCut Mint, Straight, Wintergreen, Rich Blend and Crisp Blend are being introduced on the market.2 SkoalReadyCut snuff is conveniently packaged in precut cubes so users do not need to form a pinch of the product.
Silver Creek Fine Cut (wintergreen)Swisher International1990sIn the 1990s, Swisher International introduced wintergreen-flavoured Silver Creek Fine Cut moist snuff brand: “At Swisher, we have built a reputation for researching, developing, and successfully launching new smokeless products or line extensions that create or fill a market need. Our popular Silver Creek moist snuff line, for instance, has been expanded to include Silver Creek Fine Cut and Silver Creek Cherry. And, in 1997, we are rolling out our latest addition to the line, Silver Creek Straight”.84
CougarConwood1995According to J Cothren, a Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing at Conwood Sales Company, the company planned to launch a new brand called Cougar, a value-priced product that would be available in natural and wintergreen flavours. In addition, Conwood was developing other new moist snuff flavours and planned to test market some of these items. Thus, in 1995, J Cothren stated: “We haven't come out with as many different flavours as our competitors have, but we certainly see some of those types of products to be very effective and performing well…But you also have to look at what is the ‘real deal’ as far as the consumer base. You have to find out what products they really want and constantly test products of those types”.83
  • B&W, Brown & Williamson; NNK, nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone; RJR, RJ Reynolds; TSNA, Tobacco-specific nitrosamines; USST, US Smokeless Tobacco Company; WSH, Wet Snuff Hawken.