Fontem Ventures

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Imperial Tobacco set up Fontem Ventures in December 2012 as a wholly owned subsidiary, based in the Netherlands. The company’s mission was to develop “non-tobacco consumer experiences”, notably e-cigarettes and ‘Reon’ caffeine sachets.12

In an interview with the Financial Times in 2016, Art Valkenburg, Global Head of Digital at Fontem Ventures, explained that distancing the company from tobacco was a strategy to improve staff recruitment:

“It’s about being seen as an attractive place to work in a highly competitive environment…The fact that we are by name slightly separate helps with getting conversations started for sure.”3

Imperial acquired a number of e-cigarette companies through Fontem Ventures from 2014, and subsequently developed its own range of products, including flagship brand blu.

For more information see E-Cigarettes: Imperial Tobacco.

Fontem has also been developing Imperial’s heated tobacco products (HTP), Pulze and Nixx. It was the last of the big international tobacco companies to enter this market.

For more information see Next Generation Products: Imperial Tobacco.

Employees: Past and Present

In April 2018, Richard Hill was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Fontem Ventures and e-website Commercial Director – Vapour for Imperial Brands.

Hill succeeded Titus Wouda Kuipers who was CEO from February 2017. Kuipers had replaced Arthur van Benthem.

A full list of the company’s current leadership team can be accessed at Fontem Ventures’ website.

Memberships and Consultancies

Fontem Ventures is a member of the following trade associations:

The company also declares that it is a member of UK think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, although the IEA does not list its members on its website.7

Fontem Ventures has contracted public relations (PR) companies Instinctif Partners and Aspect Consulting to work on its behalf.

For details of Fontem Ventures’ lobbying of decision makers see E-Cigarettes: Imperial Tobacco.

Fontem Ventures and Science

Promotional Corporate Website: Fontemscience.com

Fontem is responsible for leading on Imperial’s research into e-cigarettes. In 2016, in line with Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, the company set up a website called fontemscience.com. By April 2017, the website included links to articles published in peer-reviewed journals, which examined the exposure of vapers to harmful chemicals, and assessed indoor quality following e-cigarette use. An article published in February 2019 evaluated nicotine salt e-liquids.8

Funded External Research

Fontem Ventures has also funded external studies carried out by the UK Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR), a private research institute headed by Neil McKeganey which has also received funding in the past from PMI, BAT, and more recently the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and JUUL Labs.910 The findings of the CSUR studies shed a positive light on the health impact of vaping. One study concluded that e-cigarettes act as a deterrent to smoking, rather than a gateway, suggesting that e-cigarettes de-normalise smoking “through increased awareness, understanding, visibility and social acceptance”.10

Made Harm Reduction Claims to Investors

Presumably on the basis of research it carried out and funded, Imperial Tobacco has made harm reduction claims about its products to investors, stating that with blu products there’s “up to 99% reduction in harmful chemicals”, relative to conventional cigarettes.11

The tobacco industry has a track record of distorting scientific evidence.1213

For information on how the tobacco industry has used science to distort the evidence on smoking tobacco and the health impacts, go to our page on Influencing Science.

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Link

References

  1. Imperial Brands, Annual Report and Accounts 2016, Delivering Against Our Strategy, Imperial Brands website, accessed November 2019
  2. A. Cooper, R. Dyrbus, Sustainable Growth; Growing Cash Returns presentation, Imperial Tobacco Investor Day 26 February 2013, available from: http://www.imperialbrandsplc.com, accessed November 2019
  3. A. Hancock, Big Tobacco seeks to recast with tech-focused workforce, Financial Times, 19 June 2019, accessed October 2019 (behind paywall)
  4. Vape Business Ireland, Members, website, undated, accessed November 2019
  5. France Vapotage, La Federation, website, undated, accessed November 2019
  6. Scottish Grocers’ Federation, Corporate Members, undated, accessed November 2019
  7. European Commission, Fontem Ventures, Transparency Register entry, 21 March 2019, accessed November 2019
  8. Fontem Ventures, Library, undated, accessed November 2019
  9. Centre for Substance Use Research, Funders, undated, accessed May 2017
  10. abJ. Thompson, Presentation Transcript: Quality Growth- New Consumer Experiences. Imperial Brands Investor Day, 8 June 2016, available from: http://www.imperialbrandsplc.com, accessed April 2017
  11. Imperial Brands, Building blu, Presentation Investor Day, 25 September 2018, accessed November 2019
  12. B. Spencer, Don’t trust e-cigarettes studies, says Cancer Research: Charity urges caution against findings that promote devices as a healthy option, The Daily Mail 13 October 2016, accessed November 2019
  13. S. Peeters, A. Gilmore, Understanding the emergence of the tobacco industry’s use of the term tobacco harm reduction in order to inform public health policy, Tobacco Control, 2015,24(2):182-189