JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Marlboro’s famous cowboy will be the face of an Indonesian cultural icon after the local unit of Philip Morris launched on Tuesday clove-flavored cigarettes in the world’s fifth largest tobacco market.
Until now, Philip Morris has dominated the so-called “white” cigarette segment in Indonesia while the country’s top cigarette maker, Gudang Garam Tbk, is synonymous with kreteks, a sweet-smelling cigarette that is part of the country’s identity.
The “Marlboro Mix 9” kreteks -- a mixture of tobacco, cloves and a fruit flavor -- are aimed at urban smokers in Indonesia, where over 90 percent of light up clove-flavored cigarettes.
Kreteks, named for the crackling sound they make when they burn, were invented in the late 19th century to ward off disease.
They have roughly double the nicotine and tar levels of ordinary cigarettes, and usually contain added flavors such as chocolate and dried fruits. Some taste sweet, others spicy, but they are all distinctly Indonesian.
The Marlboro Mix is priced at 7,000 rupiah ($0.78) for a pack of 12, slightly higher than the regular Marlboro brand which sells for 8,500 rupiah for a pack of 20.
“Kretek is the biggest market in Indonesia and right now, we are under-represented in the machine-rolled kretek segment,” Toni Darusman, project manager for Marlboro Mix 9, said.
The number nine is considered lucky in Chinese culture.
While the number of smokers in many Western countries has fallen in recent years, experts say more than a third of Indonesia’s population smokes today compared with a little over 25 percent about a decade ago.
Indonesia’s $8-billion tobacco industry provides jobs for 7 million people and contributes about 10 percent to the government’s coffers.
$1 = 9,010 rupiah