The Evolution of Pipe Tobacco Packaging
By Andrew Witkin, CEO, StickerYou
For decades, drinkers of fine wine mocked bottles that used screw tops rather than corks. Then science got in the way, and it turns out corks – although iconic – aren’t all that great for protecting wine. That’s why today it is not uncommon to see high-end bottles with the dreaded screw top. And while purists may grumble, the reality is that what matters most is preserving what’s inside. The same is true of tobacco. Let’s look at some of the ways tobacco is packaged and stored, and maybe along the way we can put conventional wisdom that isn’t so wise out to pasture.
When it comes to storing pipe tobacco, the best option is to keep it away from extreme heat, direct sun, and air. All these elements can degrade the quality of the product and create a less pleasant smoking experience. If you’ve ever packed a bowl with the last remnants of an old can that’s been sitting around for a while, you will know it can be a less-than-satisfying experience. Overly dry tobacco doesn’t burn especially well, and can be harsh to smoke. That’s why just about every expert in the world recommends keeping containers sealed and closed until you are ready to smoke what’s inside, and why the standard tin is so popular: it keeps out all the elements that can damage or destroy perfectly good tobacco.
Unfortunately, if you tend to buy in bulk, you don’t have the advantages of a hermetically sealed tin. Most of us save loose tobacco in mason jars, but that doesn’t take care of the light problem because even a perfectly sealed jar can’t protect against the sun’s rays. Simply put, glass containers aren’t the best option unless you have a dark place to store them. Of course, different kinds of tobacco react differently to the elements (periques tend to be wet and can therefore get moldy), but as a general rule, you want to keep everything dry, dark, sealed, and cool.
Keeping It Cool
Speaking of cool, there are very few legitimate reasons to put your pipe tobacco in the refrigerator because extremely cold temperatures are not necessary to preserve the longevity of your favorite blend. And as long as we are dispelling common myths about storage, you should never put your pipe tobacco in your cigar humidor. It’s just a bad idea. There are several other ways to rehydrate dry tobacco, but cigar humidors are far too moist for anything that you would put in your pipe.
By far the worst mistake pipe smokers make is putting their tobacco in plastic bags because they see loose tobacco sold this way in stores. Storing in plastic for a short amount of time is fine, but pipe tobacco left in the bag too long will actually absorb some of the chemicals in the plastic — a great way to ruin a perfectly decent batch of your favorite mix. Unfortunately, plastic is wonderful in just about every other way, because it is easy to transport, easy to store, and you know exactly how much is inside without having to open a lid to take a look.
This is where tobacco pouches can offer the best of both worlds. Most of us think of pouches as “day-of” tools rather than long-term storage solutions. Heading out for an evening walk or to a social event, we might pack a pouch rather than bring a bulky can along. The issue is that most pouches are not perfectly sealed, making them pretty useless for anything longer than a few hours. This is where new technologies and materials are helping bridge the gap. Today’s pouches can not only be tightly sealed, but they can also maintain proper moisture levels to prevent spoilage.
Modern pouches can be sealed by fold-over, zip-top, or other air-tight methods to prevent spoilage, and new materials allow for patches with clear fronts, creating the visibility available with a plastic bag or mason jar but without the risk of chemical absorption or light spoilage. From a retail and manufacturing standpoint, these pouches are inexpensive and can be easily customized and branded, and consumers can reuse them for better storage than they’d get from an expensive after-market container, creating a solution that is both efficient and green.
In many ways, the comparison to screw top wine bottles works here. Just about any serious pipe smoker in the world would look askance at anyone who suggested storing tobacco in a pouch rather than a tin or jar, but it turns out today’s modern pouches are perfectly suited for short-term transport AND longer-term storage. It may seem a bit heretical to suggest, but over time I think we will see more acceptance as people look for better options to keep their pipe tobacco fresh and ready to smoke.
Andrew Witkin is the founder and CEO of StickerYou, a global, e-commerce leader in custom-printed, die-cut products that empowers consumers and businesses to create high-quality materials for personal expression, marketing, and packaging.