Is craft tobacco the future?
Updated: Jun 3
This column was originally published in DFNI*
Can you imagine flying to a country just to buy a product in duty free? That is the latest development in the cigar market and it could herald a coming change in the way tobacco companies compensate for the barrage of challenges they face on a seemingly weekly basis.
From health concerns to increasing legislation, selling tobacco has never been harder and brands are understandably looking for new ways to boost sales. At November’s MEADFA Conference in Beirut, Phoenicia Aer Rianta Chairman Mohamed Zeidan revealed the company’s cigar offering is bringing in travellers by itself.
“We can even venture as far as to say there are private jets which come into Beirut and Lebanon just to shop for cigars,” he told delegates. Beyond highlighting the luxury at the heart of much of the cigar market, his revelation uncovers another exciting trend in the tobacco market – the power of something unique. Amid the torrent of packaging challenges and health concerns, there is a market for tobacco brands which can offer something new to carve out a niche.
It is not dissimilar to the tactic used by their cousins in the spirits sector – indeed some are drawing a direct comparison. KT International (KTI) Marketing Director Stuart Buchanan said he believes tobacco producers can follow the example of craft beer producers and boutique distillers by tapping into consumers who have “become tired of the homogenous approach of the multinationals across many categories”.
Next-gen products have shown tobacco users are open to new products and one cannot fault companies like Philip Morris International (PMI) for throwing their weight behind this new development, but Buchanan, Zeidan and those like them are tapping into a trend which is not just lucrative, but already there.
Every release of a new cigar range brings new changes to how this classic smoke is presented. Davidoff’s Year of the Pig range offered a Dominican Yamasá wrapper, a Sumatra binder and filler tobacco from the Dominican Republic, but are the novelties and changes promoted enough to catch the eye of shoppers?
Craft spirits promoted their differentiation and innovation and have cornered the market in the process. If tobacco shoppers will fly internationally for their smokes, imagine what they could do with the allure of something new and artisan.
*This article was originally published in DFNI magazine, during my tenure as Tobacco Editor there