In between the regular updates we see related to new releases, expanded lines, and news of products being shipped, something else has become way more common recently that could point to big changes taking place in the industry. Distribution is far from the most exciting aspect of the cigar world, but the reality is that anything that affects the cigar supply chain has a direct impact on everyone who enjoys the end product. It makes sense that it isn’t on everyone’s radar. By the time we pick our favorite blends – and a couple new ones – from the local humidor, someone else has already taken care of figuring out how to get that tobacco from the field all the way to our ashtrays.
As a result, you may not have noticed how many cigar companies have recently made dramatic changes to their distribution – with some even bringing it all in-house. Multiple cigar brands have very publicly moved their production to PDR this year, including Hiram & Solomon and – most recently – El Primer Mundo. The renowned La Aurora brand, who worked with their previous U.S. distribution partner for well over 30 years, is fresh off of announcing that they’ll be taking over U.S. distribution of their own cigars. Luciano Cigars, previously ACE Prime, has just launched their own U.S. distribution operation and launch team as well. In addition, countless brands like Lampert Cigars have signed with European distributors – many as a result of a gap left in the wake of the Cuban price hikes – with more brands announcing new partnerships in places like The Netherlands, Belgium, and every week. I’m far from an authority, especially on the international cigar landscape, but new world blends finding new audiences abroad seems like a way bigger series of wins than traditional coverage would suggest.
Also worth noting, especially if you are unfamiliar with all of these brands being mentioned, is that this isn’t just all big companies or all small companies making these moves, or all new companies or all established ones, as might be expected. It’s a vast spectrum. So, does this all mean that the industry is booming and that consolidation of effort is a logical step for growing companies? Is the boom busting and companies are going to start looking to cut costs like paying someone else to distribute product? Behemoths like STG report a plateau, but could people just be buying more boutique and less big brand product? These are far from the only scenarios that could potentially be playing out, but they are definitely worth knowing more about as 2023 approaches.
Do you prefer boutique over more corporate brands? Do you care how a cigar gets to you as long as it gets to you? Would it be easy for you to replace a favorite blend if it suddenly became too expensive. Please let everyone know in the comments below!