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Japan Tobacco Inc. will cut 12 relatively new cigarette brands, nine of which have been marketed in target areas to gauge consumer interest, company officials said Wednesday.

The decision attests to the difficulty JT faces in securing consumer demand for tobacco products released in recent years amid the surge in Japan’s antismoking awareness.

The nine test brands include Siesta cigarettes, sold only in Hyogo Prefecture, and premium Rin cigarettes, sold mainly in the Hokuriku region, the officials said.

The other three brands, including Salem Box, are sold nationwide.

After it discontinues the 12 brands, JT will still have 103 tobacco products. JT’s midterm business plan, which began in 2003, is to limit the number of tobacco products.

It categorizes its top 60 sellers, including Mild Seven, Seven Stars and Caster, as its core brands. Its other products are considered replaceable if their sales performances are not up to expectations.

The firm has been releasing new tobacco products first in target regions and then expanding into other areas if the brands sell well.

The company’s tactic to increase the number of popular cigarette brands is to constantly introduce new brands and get rid of poor performers, while maintaining 80 types of tobacco products on the market.

The company has gotten rid of 21 brands, including the recent 12, of 46 new products it put on the market between fiscal 2003 and fiscal 2005.

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