R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said today it is shelving its second attempt at a heat-not-burn traditional cigarette, but stressed it is not exiting the category.
Reynolds launched Revo in February in a test market in Wisconsin. It sold at retail for about $6 a pack.
The motivation behind heat-not-burn is that the heating of tobacco leaves may be less harmful since the burning of tobacco tends to create the largest amount of carcinogens.
Eclipse, the company’s first national attempt at the category from 2003 to 2007, ended because the product struggled to gain traction with adult smokers. Eclipse remains available in limited supply, including at local Reynolds facilities.
Susan Cameron, Reynolds’ president and chief executive, told analysts during a conference call that the company has discontinued marketing support for Revo. By the end of the month, it will no longer be available in Wisconsin.
“Revo has seen consumer interest and trial, but actual adoption rates of the product have not met our expectations,” Cameron said. “However, we do remain optimistic in the long-term potential for heat-not-burn, and we continue to work to improve the technology.”
Reynolds spokesman Richard Smith said that interest in heat-not-burn “has been high, although in Wisconsin most adult smokers preferred to remain with their usual cigarette brands instead of switching to Revo.”
Revo represented a blast from the past for Cameron. Before she embraced Reynolds’ electronic cigarette Vuse, Eclipse was her preferred tobacco product.
Cameron expressed confidence in February that heat-not-burn “finally finds its time.”
The decision to discontinue Revo has a local manufacturing impact since it was supposed to have a prominent role at its Bowman Gray plant.
Brice O'Brien, Reynolds’ head of consumer marketing, said in February that Reynolds understood that Revo may be challenging to smoke at first, but advised smokers to “stick with it, because it’s totally worth it.”
Revo was considered promising enough that British American Tobacco Ltd. wanted the technology included in a proposed innovation partnership with Reynolds that also includes Vuse. Reynolds said talks are continuing with the partnership.
BAT spent $4.7 billion to maintain a 42 percent ownership stake in Reynolds, with legacy non-BAT Reynolds shareholders holding 43 percent and legacy Lorillard shareholders 15 percent.