"As American as baseball," could be a phrase coined by UST. Through U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC), UST manufactures and distributes snuff (inhaled) and chewing tobacco products, used by a number of tobacco-spitting players. Its lineup includes the #1 and #2 moist premium smokeless tobacco brands Copenhagen and Skoal, as well as value-priced brands Red Seal and Husky. With a taste for the grape, too, its Ste. Michelle Wine Estates unit produces wine; vineyards dot California, Oregon, and Washington. Brands include Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Conn Creek, Stag's Leap, and Villa Mt. Eden. UST has operated as a subsidiary under its former rival, Altria (parent of Philip Morris USA) since 2009.
Altria purchased UST to expand its US smokeless tobacco holdings. The deal, worth more than $11 billion, including $1 billion in debt, propelled Altria to the top spot in the growing smokeless tobacco product market.
Under Altria, UST has access to the deep pockets needed to fuel its growth. UST's smokeless products (combined with Philip Morris USA's domestic smokeless offerings) and premium wine business have climbed from a little more than 7% of its parent's income in 2009 to 13% in 2010. The rise is attributable to higher demand for the Copenhagen brand products coupled with the introduction of Marlboros Snus (a pasteurized tobacco pouch that goes between the lip and cheek). Reflecting the bounce, UST's smokeless products, which marked a record shipment volume in 2010, gained retail share, moving from less than 55% of the market in 2009 to more than 55% in 2010.
Wine operations, which account for roughly 1% of Altria's income, continue to strengthen. Year-over-year income from wine in 2010 soared more than 40% on more than a 13% uptick in sales, thanks to increased consumer purchases at supermarkets and liquor stores, as well as restaurant and bars. – less