Next Generation Products: Imperial Tobacco
These products are referred to as Next Generation Products (NGPs) and are often linked to tobacco companies' harm reduction strategies. Imperial Tobacco has also used the terms "new consumer experiences" and "consumer adjacencies" to describe NGPs.
On its website, Imperial Tobacco underlined the importance of NGPs to the company's future:
- "While our core business remains the manufacture and sale of high quality cigarette and other tobacco product brands for millions of adult consumers worldwide, NGPs offer us considerable growth opportunities."
In late 2017 Imperial stated that 2018 would see a series of NGP launches in both new and existing markets.
Although the company continues to have snus interests, the focus of its NGP investments switched to e-cigarettes in late 2012.
- For more information about the company's snus investments, go to Cigarette Companies Investing in Snus.
In December 2012, Imperial Tobacco set up a wholly owned Dutch subsidiary called Fontem Ventures to develop "non-tobacco consumer experiences", notably e-cigarettes. In November 2017, the tobacco company also acquired UK-based nicotine liquids maker Nerudia.
Imperial initially sold multiple e-cigarette brands, but from 2016 its NGP strategy has focused on growing the blu brand.
In February 2018, Imperial launched a brand extension named myblu, based on a liquid pod format, in the US, UK, France, Germany and Russia. The company has said that it plans to launch new liquids and another brand extension in the second half of 2018, called blu ACE, an open system e-cigarette. According to Imperial’s Chief Executive Officer Alison Cooper the company sends e-cigarettes to social media influencers. In an interview with The Sunday Times in April 2019 Cooper said: "You have a lot of vape influencers in the US." But Cooper added that Imperial uses the social media strategy to reach only adult smokers. Cooper also said that Imperial has trained thousands of "brand ambassadors" to promote vaping.
- For detailed information on Imperial Tobacco's e-cigarettes business, visit the Fontem Ventures page.
Heated Tobacco Products
Unlike its competitors, Imperial Tobacco has shown little appetite to develop and market HTPs. Whereas Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco have stressed the 'reduced risk' potential of HTPs, Imperial Tobacco has publicly challenged the HTP reduced risk claim, asserting that "there's no difference really between those products and traditional tobacco products" and "It's probably better described generically as 'heat and burn' rather than 'heat not burn'".
In 2015 Imperial Tobacco scientists published a study in the Environmental Analytical Chemistry journal that concluded that PMI's IQOS released tobacco-containing side stream emissions, and recommended that HTPs should be covered by smoke-free legislation.
Market analysts and investors have criticised Imperial Tobacco for not venturing into the HTP category.
Perhaps bowing to market pressure, Mark Williamson, Imperial's chairman, announced in February 2018 that the company had "multiple [HTP] formats under development", and that it had trialled them in Europe and Japan. In May 2018, the company further reported that it was "progressing optionality in heated tobacco, with second stage consumer trials planned in the next few months". In April 2019 Imperial announced that it would start selling its Pulze device from May 6 in the city of Fukuoka in Japan.
Investment in Medicinal Cannabis
In 2018 Imperial invested in Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT) which describes itself as managing “a wide-ranging research program that investigates the medical potential of cannabinoids across different therapeutic areas.” OCT is licensed by the Home Office. Matthew Phillips, Chief Development Officer at Imperial, said: “We are pleased to be partnering with OCT. Cannabinoid products have significant potential and our investment enables Imperial to support OCT’s important research while building a deeper understanding of the medical cannabis market.” In an interview in April 2019, Imperial’s Chief Executive Officer Alison Cooper refused to disclose the amount invested in OCT but said that it was an "interesting area to look at".
European Union's Citizens'Initiative: the Let's demand smarter vaping regulation campaign
In February 2019, a European Union Commission’s “Citizens Initiative” campaign was launched, promoted by Imperial Tobacco under the name “Let's demand smarter vaping regulation!”.This campaign seeks to remove article 20 of Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU, which “requires EU Member States to introduce restrictions on the advertising of electronic cigarettes” The European Citizens’ Initiative is a democratic tool meant to benefit individuals, or groups of individuals, by bringing to the Commission’s attention a proposal for legal acts. There are rules in place that forbid companies or organisations from proposing this process.  However, some of the sponsors of the ‘smarter vaping regulations’ initiative include Valerio Forconi, head of EU corporate affairs and registered lobbyist for Imperial Brands, and Dustin Dahlmann and Mosè Giacomello, members of German and Italian vaping industry/ trade associations. 
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