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Saka retires from Drew Estate

| July 21, 2013

Steve Saka has retired as the CEO of Drew Estate, its family of companies and its subsidiaries. Saka joined the company as president in July 2005 and was promoted to CEO in July 2012.

“The team at Drew Estate would like to thank Steve for all of his hard work and dedication over the past eight years,” said company owners Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel. “His passion, leadership and expertise are a very rare combination within our industry. Steve will be truly missed, and we wish him all the best moving forward.”

During Saka’s tenure, Drew Estate has become one of the world’s largest and most successful premium handmade cigar manufacturers.

In addition to managing Drew Estate, Saka has written extensively about cigars and black tobaccos. He is a pioneer in the online media segment as the executive editor of CigarNexus.com and an experienced cigar blender and maker.

 

Drew Estate acquires Heavenly Cigar

| June 28, 2013

Drew Estate has acquired the Heavenly Cigar Co. of in Naples, Florida, USA.

“We are extremely excited about this acquisition and look forward to building the Heavenly cigar brand further across the U.S.,” said Michael Cellucci, president of Drew Estate. “We believe that with our expertise and innovation we have the ability to fully realize the potential of the Heaven line of products.”

Heavenly Cigar Co.products will be featured at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Convention and International Trade Show in July at the Drew Estate booth.

Established in 1996, Drew Estate is a privately held, U.S.-headquartered manufacturer and distributor of premium cigars. Drew Estate’s Nicaraguan factory handcrafts brands such as Liga Privada, La Vieja Habana and Herrera Esteli.

Revenue drop fires VAT rethink

| May 14, 2013

In an unusual move that has attracted some criticism, India’s Uttar Pradesh state government has slashed the VAT on cigarettes and cigars from 50 percent to 25 percent.

According to a report in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter, the decision to reduce VAT was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet, which is hoping to halt the loss in revenue that followed an increase in VAT last year.

The level of VAT levied on cigarettes and cigars was increased in 2012 from 12.5 percent to 50 percent.

Asia Marketing Services to represent Agio

| May 7, 2013

Royal Agio Cigars has appointed Asia Marketing Services as its agent for the Asia Pacific region. Asia Marketing Services will be responsible for coordinating the sales and marketing efforts of the Agio Cigars brands in the Asia Pacific domestic and travel retail markets.

“This strategic partnership with Asia Marketing Services will enable us to continue growing the business together with our dedicated domestic and travel retail partners and pursue the opportunities that lie ahead of us in the region,” said Marcel Michels, chief sales officer of Agio Cigars

“We are proud to represent Agio Cigars well known brands of cigars to the domestic and duty free/travel retail markets,” said Hans Rijfkogel, director of Asia Marketing Services. “This is a terrific opportunity for us and we are honored that Agio Cigars have chosen Asia Marketing Services as their agent.”

Agio Cigars is a leading cigar manufacturers in Europe, offering brands such as Agio Tip, Mehari’s, Panter and Balmoral.

 

Villiger eyes the premium side

| May 3, 2013

The U.S. unit of one of the major players in the world of European-style, machine-made cigars is expanding its presence on the premium side of the business.

Villiger Cigars North America, the U.S. arm of Villiger Söhne AG of Pfeffikon, Switzerland, has expanded its small but growing stable of handmade cigar brands, according to a story in Cigar Aficionado.

Villiger Colorado has a pair of new sizes, a 6-inch-long, 60 ring gauge Gordo (suggested retail price $10.50) and a corona measuring 5 1/2 inches by 44 ring ($6.99), pushing the brand to six sizes. Villiger Talanga has been expanded by one size, adding a corona (5 1/2 by 44, $6.99), giving the line five sizes in all.

Both cigar brands are made in Nicaragua by the Plasencia family for Villiger Cigars North America, a Charlotte, North Carolina, company that is headed by president Roy MacLaren.

MacLaren wanted to add a Gordo to Villiger Talanga, too, but found the blend wasn’t as appealing in that size.

Villiger is a company that turns 125 this year, and while it’s a force in small machine-made cigars, particularly in Europe, the company has a very small presence in the premium business in the United States. MacLaren aims to change that.

Cigar makers hope to snuff out FDA efforts

| April 19, 2013

Cigar makers are trying to snuff out an effort by the Food and Drug  Administration to regulate their products for the first time.

The FDA said in its regulatory agenda for the year that it would propose rules in April to expand federal oversight of tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The news was welcomed by tobacco giants, such as Altria, that want all tobacco products to be brought under the same regulations, according to a Washington, D.C. regulation blog The Hill.

Sellers and makers of premium cigars — often hand-rolled, slow-burning and made with aged tobacco leaves — say the FDA is overreaching, and are hiring lobbyists to fight back.

Glynn Loope, the executive director of Cigar Rights of America, said the  FDA’s move is “a classic case of going beyond congressional intent.”

“When Congress passed the original Tobacco Control Act, it was really to address two primary points: youth access to tobacco and chemical addition. Premium cigars don’t meet that criteria,” Loope  said.

Another trade group for cigar retailers and manufacturers agreed that the FDA  is distorting the law.
“It’s our belief that the act was to prevent youth from smoking and curtail the health effects for youth,” said Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.

Spann said FDA meddling could have a devastating impact on cigar shops. The group has warned that regulators could ban walk-in humidors and seasonal cigar blends, restrict store advertising or even place graphic warning labels on the ornate cigar boxes that are coveted by collectors.

The pushback against FDA rules is also coming from overseas.

In February, the Cigar Rights of  America organized a letter from the ambassadors of the tobacco-growing nations Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua to officials at the White House,  State Department and the FDA, warning that new regulation would threaten thousands of jobs and “raise the specter of political and economic consequences within our region.”