• June 19, 2024

Stepping Up

 Stepping Up

Photo: Taco Tuinstra

Zilong presented its Marskiss heat-not-burn product at TabExpo in Bologna.
(Photo: Taco Tuinstra)

Newcomer Marskiss aims to offer heated-tobacco consumers an improved user experience.

By Stefanie Rossel

Since their introduction to the market less than a decade ago, sales of heated-tobacco products (HTPs) have grown remarkably. Market research companies are outdoing each other in their forecasts for the category. Reportlinker, for example, valued the global HTP market at $22.36 billion in 2022 and expects it to reach $25.89 billion this year. The market is anticipated to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 15.9 percent to reach $72.86 billion by 2030. Euromonitor expects HTPs to cement their place at the head of the vapor growth category, with significant growth in Japan, South Korea, Russia, Italy, Germany, Poland, the U.S. and Ukraine.

The global HTP market is dominated by four large players—Philip Morris International, which pioneered the category with its IQOS device; BAT, which competes with its Glo brand; Japan Tobacco International, known for its Ploom product; and KT&G with its Lil series.

Inspired by the success in the segment of their larger counterparts, many smaller manufacturers have also entered the market. One of them is Singapore-based business Zilong. Driven by its desire to design a safe and good-flavored HTP, the company spent more than 10 years developing Marskiss before debuting the product in 2021 at the WT Middle East exhibition in Dubai and, more recently, showcasing it at TabExpo 2023 in Bologna.

To understand how Marskiss differs from other HTPs, it’s helpful to examine the company’s background. Zilong was founded by Zhan Baoming, who has worked China’s tobacco industry since 1991 and also owns a cigarette flavoring company. Zhan has been in tobacco harm reduction since 2000. The knowledge he acquired about tar reduction and aroma enhancement laid a solid foundation for the creation of Zilong’s HTP product, according to Zhan. “My goal is to make a good HTP product that is low in tar while satisfying in tobacco aroma,” he says.

One Marskiss stick provides users with the same level of satisfaction as two or three sticks of other HTP brands, according to Zilong. (Photo: Taco Tuinstra)

Longer Lasting Aroma

The nature and treatment of the tobacco makes all the difference, explains Zhan. “Our product uses high-quality natural tobacco as a carrier for our ‘aroma precursors,’ which is a featured technology of our product. At present, most HTP products on the market use food liquid fragrances to produce tobacco aroma. However, the resistance of food liquid fragrances to high temperature is weak, and the fragrances will be denatured and volatilized quickly with the increase of temperature, resulting in a shorter retention time of tobacco aroma. How to prolong the retention time of tobacco aroma? After years of research, our technical team found that natural tobacco and aromatic plants can be processed in a special procedure to obtain a comprehensive aroma, which produces fragrances of more lasting retention. This is what we call ‘the aroma precursor.’ The aroma precursor has much less impurity and more full-bodied, consistent and lasting tobacco flavor.”

According to Zhan, Marskiss sticks feature more advanced moisturizing technology than other HTPs, which makes their aerosols purer and fresher. Among other benefits, this prevents users from experiencing a dry mouth, which is a common problem associated with HTPs. To keep the moisturized tobacco fresh, Zilong has developed a special stick construction that includes a storage chamber for the tobacco and a more efficient filtering technique.

“The paper tube of our product has two layers—an outer layer and an inner layer—and we choose natural porous material as the inner layer coating to build a storage environment similar to a ceramic pot, which can capture the moisture from the tobacco section and keep it inside the tube so that the tobacco section will not become dry after the package has been opened for a period of time,” says Zhan.

The patented chamber lets the tobacco age naturally with storage, according to Zilong, which will result in a better taste. What’s more, the filter section of each Marskiss stick features a ball array filtration system so that the aerosol passes through a curved path formed between the gap in the ball array. “After layer upon layer [of] filtration, the aerosol becomes fresher and purer,” explains Zhan.

Marskiss sticks feature advanced moisturizing technology that keeps aerosols pure and fresh. Among other benefits, this prevents users from experiencing dry mouth. (Image: Zilong)

More Satisfying

Zilong claims its technology enables one Marskiss stick to provide users with the same level of satisfaction as two or three sticks of other HTP brands. By using lower, more balanced levels of nicotine salts, Marskiss also helps users avoid headaches associated with excessive nicotine salts.

Marskiss tobacco sticks come in five flavors and are matched by a device with a pre-heating time of 20 seconds that allows for 18 puffs or five minutes of use, which is about four puffs more than other brands. Initially, Zilong intends to launch Marskiss with blade heating technology. Down the road, the device will also be available with pin heating technology. “It is light-weight, slim and slick, and portable, and more importantly, it is a perfect match with our stick product that can heat the sticks to give the best experiences to users,” says Zhan.

In combination with the sticks’ patented filtering technology, the device reduces throat irritation and reduced dust to lungs, according to Zilong.

The company has invested €15 million ($16.25 million) in Marskiss so far. In preparation for launch, Zilong has started identifying markets and partners. According to Zhan, the product has performed well in consumer trials. “We have done several rounds of consumer testing in different markets and basically, we get pretty positive feedback from users, including distinctive and lasting tobacco aroma, no bad smell in mouth and room so that people around them do not object them from using our product, and no headache or coughing after using,” he says.

“We hope to tackle the pain points of the smokers, and we are committed to making the best [heat-not-burn] product,” says Zhan. “Please stay tuned for updates.”