Cigarette giant Altria Group’s beyond-nicotine future could include cannabis products and oral caffeine pouches.
Those were two main takeaways from last week’s investor day presentations—in which Altria revealed plans for a new heated tobacco-capsule technology branded Swic, and a higher-nicotine variation of its On! oral pouches.
If pursued, cannabis would occupy a category that Altria calls “beyond nicotine.”
The company would follow a strategy designed to replicate the way people use tobacco products to “elevate certain everyday moments when they’re looking to either detach from, or engage with, the world around them,” said chief innovation and product officer Olivier Houpert.
“Cannabis product are one such example—but we’re also expanding our lens to a broader consumer base to understand other everyday moments that could be elevated through non-nicotine products,” said Houpert.
Although Houpert did not cite the company by name, Canadian cannabis marketer Cronos Group could be a potential partner in any such venture, as Altria invested $1.8 billion for a 45% share of Cronos in 2021.
As for caffeine, The Wall Street Journal interviewed CEO Billy Gifford and reported that Altria could market a pouch format of the central nervous system stimulant.
The Swic heat-not-burn technology consists of tobacco-filled, stainless-steel capsules that are “heated to a precise temperature to deliver a satisfying inhale that is similar to a cigarette,” according to COO Jody Begley.
“Our research suggests that consumers find the product concept appealing and unique. And after trying it, smokers said they found the device simple and easy to use versus heated tobacco stick products,” Begley said last week.
Altria’s On! Plus pouch is being developed as a “spit-free” alternative to traditional moist smokeless-tobacco dips that could be used anywhere.
The company is still waiting for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of its premarket tobacco product applications (PMTA) for the entire On! portfolio.
Altria executives said they would submit a PMTA for On! Plus in 2024.