Japan Tobacco is to launch redesigned versions of seven of its popular Pianissimo brand of cigarettes in mid-January.
Pianissimo is the top-selling brand in Japan’s 100mm slim menthol category and has proven particularly popular among female smokers for what Japan’s largest tobacco company says is a “smooth, unassertive and refreshing menthol flavour and aroma.”
Smoking rates are declining in Japan, although they remain higher for both men and women than in Europe and North America.
The government raised the tax on tobacco products by 30 per cent in late 2010, which contributed to a decrease in the number of domestic smokers, while there have also been suggestions more recently that another tax hike will be required as the government seeks ways to pay for the reconstruction of parts of northeast Japan that were badly damaged in the natural disasters of last March.
As part of its campaign to win new customers — as well as retaining its existing consumers — Japan Tobacco revamped its Cabin collection in September to make it a “cigarette brand for sophisticated adults.”
Now it is the turn of seven Pianissimo products to be repackaged, while four will be given new names.
Pianissimo One is to be renamed Aria Menthol, “an operatic term signifying an airy melodic solo,” the company said, while the new white packaging and waterlines are meant to symbolise the “gentle, soft character of the product.”
The Pianissimo Super Slims Menthol One is to become the Precis Menthol, due to the concentrated menthol sensation, while the Icene Menthol brand will become the Icene Crista to emphasise the “chilling sensation of the menthol.”
The brand was first launched in Japan in 1995 and the latest addition to the range — the Pianissimo ViV Menthol — was in November 2011. A pack of 20 retails for Y440 (RM17.90).
Japan Tobacco is by far the dominant player in the domestic market and smokers will be waiting to see how other companies, particularly foreign firms such as British American Tobacco, respond.
Japan Tobacco’s products are sold in more than 120 countries and it controls Benson & Hedges as well as the Mayfair, Winston, Camel, Silk Cut and Glamour brands. At home, it has a two-thirds share of the domestic market and its flagship brands include Seven Stars, Peace, Caster, Hope and Mild Seven.
Japan Tobacco statistics indicate that 24.95 million Japanese smoke, out of an adult population of 104.4 million. A recent study by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare showed that the smoking rate among men has fallen to 36.8 per cent — the lowest level since such surveys were started in 1986 — while the figure for women came to 9.1 per cent, below the 10 per cent threshold for the first time since 2001.