• April 24, 2024

Outstanding innovations

 Outstanding innovations

New filter technologies are helping cigarette manufacturers set their products apart.

By Patrick Meredith

As with most industries, consumer expectations and industry demands are constantly evolving, leading to new trends and continuous innovation. This is no different in the filters market, with many external factors and different consumer preferences coming into play. As the amount of industry regulation and legislation grows—with increasing restrictions around tobacco content, marketing and packaging, among other things—manufacturers must turn to the filters themselves to differentiate their products and create greater appeal for consumers.

This has led to numerous exciting innovations, such as different filter diameters, lengths, shapes, flavors and colors. One type of specialist filter that has seen particularly strong growth over the last five years is the capsule filter. Having grown almost exponentially from its first entrance into the market in 2008, the current global capsule market is estimated to be approximately 150 billion sticks per year. Demand for capsule filters has increased significantly as they fulfill changing customer preferences and meet their evolving tastes—capsules provide flexibility, variety and personalization. Capsule filters enable a concept widely known as “mass personalization”; the different filter options allow customers to personalize their experience by choosing which flavors they wish to smoke and when during their consumption they want to release the flavors. In response to this strong customer demand, filter manufacturers around the world have expanded their capsule offerings, providing various new flavors and innovations.

These innovative capsules can vary in terms of flavors, ranging from the more traditional, such as menthol, to the more exotic, such as rose or green tea. With an audible “pop” when the integrated capsule is crushed, capsule filters enhance the customer experience through the addition of sound as well as taste. At Essentra, a leading global supplier of filters and scientific services, the entry-point capsule filter is the Sensation filter. The Sensation currently comes in a wide range of flavors, including grape, apple, spearmint and osmanthus.

Leveraging the market’s increasing popularity of products with smaller circumferences, capsule filters are now readily incorporated into slim and super-slim sizes, normally in more premium products. The overall trend toward super-slim products has also been particularly strong in Africa and the Middle East, which saw an increase in sales of almost 12 percent in 2016.

Capsules can also be incorporated into dual-segment filters to add extra features. For example, capsules can be embedded in dual-segment carbon filters, or they can be included in filters that incorporate a tube segment. By including capsules in these special filters, consumers can enjoy the benefits of both interesting flavors and the more innovative variants. Essentra’s creatively designed Dual Sensation filter provides a number of different combinations for consumers to choose from, including either a capsule segment with a carbon segment or a capsule segment with a visually distinctive filter segment. These combinations present consumers with the choice and ability to personalize their product through several unique taste, smell and visualization options.

Similarly, dual-segment filters with capsules in both segments mean consumers can enjoy a bespoke experience. A filter with two capsules means consumers only need one filter but can get twice the flavor, on demand—as can be seen with one of Essentra’s most recent proprietary innovations, the TwinSense. Filters with two capsules are seen to be the filter type that offers the customer the most control; consumers can choose not to burst the capsules at all, to burst one for one flavor or to burst both capsules for a combination of the two. An assortment of flavor combinations are available, such as menthol and strawberry or menthol and grape.

For all variants, to maximize flexibility, the filter tip’s length, circumference and pressure drop can be varied to suit taste and design requirements. As consumers become more discerning, manufacturers must be able to offer flexibility and the ability to create the exact products and services that meet user needs.

However, with further legislation due to be implemented, there may be limitations within the capsule market. For example, in accordance with the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), menthol cigarettes will be banned in the EU by May 2020. Article 7 of the TPD states, “Member states shall prohibit the placing on the market of tobacco products with a characterizing flavor.” In addition, in the U.S., a ban on cigarettes containing certain characterizing flavors (excluding menthol) went into effect, authorized by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, as part of a national effort by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce smoking in America. According to the act, “a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice … that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke.”

Patrick Meredith is innovations director at Essentra.

Until this legislation is realized, it is therefore still possible to use capsules and capsule filters to differentiate brands. It is also partly why there are now so many variants being introduced into the market. For example, although it’s a slightly different technology, a “water capsule” was recently launched in Japan to show potential different applications and functions that are being investigated. The water capsule itself modifies the taste but in a different way, by cooling rather than imparting a flavor. Water is also known to have some filtration properties if it is present in the appropriate quantities, so there may also be an additional benefit in this regard.

Therefore, not only do capsules help manufacturers cater to consumer tastes, but they also add value in terms of brand differentiation. As industry regulation and legislation continues to grow with increasing restrictions around tobacco content, marketing and packaging, manufacturers continue to turn to the filters themselves to distinguish their products. Leveraging the capsule in this way creates an opportunity for brands to add value and offer something that their competitors do not. It will be interesting to see how capsules continue to develop and what new innovations are created that can add the same flexibility and personalization that current capsules do but can also comply with any new regulations that come into place.