Imperial Tobacco Tests Reon Caffeine Strips in the U.K.

Alternative to Energy Drinks is Part of Cigarette Marketer's Diversification Strategy

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Imperial Tobacco, owner of the Davidoff, Gauloises and Embassy cigarette brands, is launching a brand of edible caffeine strips in an effort to diversify as cigarette sales decline.

The British multinational is testing Reon caffeine strips in northern England in Manchester, the U.K. city with the second highest consumption after London of energy drinks.

A range of three flavors -- grapefruit & zing, blackcurrant & fresh, lemon & hot – was launched at an early morning "Rise and Rave" event this week, featuring a DJ, yoga lessons, massages and breakfast.

The new brand, which is also available online in the U.K., is being promoted with the line, "Reon. Bring it on," and is aimed at professionals aged 25-to-45. A pack of eight strips costs $4, with each stick containing 20mg of caffeine, or roughly a third of the amount in a shot of espresso. The sticks, which are sugar-free and contain only one calorie each, dissolve on the tongue to give an instant energy hit.

A subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco, Fontem Ventures, was formed in 2013 as part of a drive towards diversification and is behind the development of Reon.

Olga Rusnak, lifestyle energy category director at Fontem Ventures, said in a statement, "Mancunians are well known for living life to the full – exactly the type of people Reon has been created with in mind, so Manchester seemed like the perfect place for our pilot launch. Reon is for people looking for a quicker, more convenient and smarter alternative to their usual caffeinated soft drinks."

Reon is not the first caffeine strip on the market: basketball player LeBron James launched Sheets with Florida-based Purebrands in 2011.

Imperial Tobacco, the world's third largest cigarette manufacturer, also owns the world's best-selling e-cigarette brand, Blu, acquired from Lorillard in July. Although e-cigarettes are growing in popularity, sales are still dwarfed by regular cigarettes. According to Euromonitor, global e-cigarette sales were $3 billion in 2013, while global tobacco sales were more than $700 billion.

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