Marlboro parent Altria Group, the country’s largest cigarette maker, says it wants to focus on healthier products.
Relatively speaking, that is.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Altria CEO Billy Gifford said the company learned some lessons after losing more than $12 billion on its investment in vaping heavyweight Juul Labs.
It now wants to delve deeper into smoke-free — but not necessarily nicotine-free — products that pose less of a risk to users than old-school cigarettes.
“Previously, we were chasing the market,” Gifford said. “You’re constantly watching what the consumer is telling you in the marketplace, but none of them were satisfying the consumer enough to ultimately meet all of their needs and desires.”
This needs-and-desires thing is apparently at the heart of Altria’s strategic planning.
Gifford observed that people still like to schmooze during breaks. They like to give themselves a little treat or reward.
“How do you meet them in that moment and fix their unmet needs and desires?” Gifford said.
Maybe it’s smoke-free nicotine hits. Or maybe something else.
According to the Journal, Altria is exploring new (for them) products such as pouches that can be placed in the mouth for a jolt of caffeine.
It’s also looking at cannabis products.
If so, it’s a logical extension of Altria’s know-how — and addresses that goal of meeting people’s needs and desires.
I’ve long believed the cannabis market won’t truly take off until a major player like Altria takes part, bringing its marketing and lobbying muscle to addressing regulatory and tax issues.
If Altria is indeed going down this road, it would be a turning point for the company and a turning point for the cannabis market.
And anything that gets them looking beyond nicotine is a good thing.