As part of our 2016 coverage of the IPCPR trade show, I took the time to sit down and interview eight individuals across the cigar industry. Our sampling of interviews included cigar line owners, executives and master blenders and tobacco companies from small to very large. Our intent was to ask them the same set of questions to take the pulse of the industry as a whole. We saw some similarities in the answers we received, but each individual brought his own nuanced perspective to the table.
Our 2016 interviews included:
- Robert Caldwell, Owner, Caldwell Cigar Co
- Michael Herklots, VP Retail & Brand Development, Nat Sherman
- Christian Eiroa, Founder, CLE Cigars
- José Blanco, Founder and Owner, Las Cumbres Tabaco – Señorial cigars
- George Sosa, VP of Sales, Alec Bradley
- Rocky Patel, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars
- Steve Saka, Founder/Owner, Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust
- Pedro Gomez, Factory Spokesman, Drew Estate
As we stated before, we intended to build a composite of the industry as a whole, so we wanted to ask the same set of questions to each interviewee. For the most part, we were able to conduct our full battery of questions. However, to avoid any confusion, we’ll include an abbreviated list of participants for each individual question to avoid the suggestion that we’re speaking on the behalf of an individual or organization when they’ve chosen to opt out of a specific question.
The questions we asked included:
- What do you see as the biggest hurdle or challenge that the cigar industry needs to overcome in the next 12 to 18 months?
- (really more like 1a) With the three big trade organizations working primarily on the FDA’s deeming regulations, is there a secondary threat or hurdle that’s also on the horizon?
- Every year, we seem to see blend trends emerge. With all of the cigar makers competing for the same crops of tobacco, it’s not uncommon for us to see cigars that are released that include similar elements. In the past, we’ve seen Brazilian Mata Fina, Sungrown and Ligero wrappers all spend some time in the limelight. What trends do you see emerging currently? Do you have a favorite wrapper or filler leaf right now?
- Of your own blends, current or new, which one is the most exciting for you to get in the hands of the consumer?
- Are there any cigars from other cigar makers you’re looking forward to trying?
Thanks to all the participants in our interview process. We appreciate each of you taking the time to interrupt your trade show schedules!