The 18th International Havana Cigar Festival concluded in the Cuban capital with an auction of Premium cigars and humidors that collected 865,000 euros. This time around the festival was dedicated to the 50 years of the Cohiba trademark. The meeting showcased arts and marketing to establish, in a difficult global situation, the position of one of Cuba’s traditional exports.
Close to 2,000 persons from 60 countries participated in the business meet from February 29 to March 3, the highest registered attendance. The Cuban-British Habanos S.A. company, the organiser of the festival, presented on this occasion a limited production of 2,500 Havana cigars of the “Cohiba 50th Anniversary” cigar brand (vitola).
The company’s marketing vice president, LeopoldoCintra González, described this cigar as “unique and unrepeatable”, made with leafs from the Vuelta Abajo region, in the province of Pinar del Río, world famous for its tobacco plantations.
As a tribute to the half century of one of the most internationally prestigious cigar brands, the festival also served as the scenario for the launching of two equally new cigar brands: “Cohiba MedioSiglo” and “Cohiba Majestuoso 1966.”
During the Festival, Habanos S.A. programmed the presentation in 2016 of limited editions of other brands well positioned in the market: Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and Trinidad. It has also incorporated two new assortments of Partagás and Hoyo de Monterrey to the Vintage Havana Cigars line.
The firm, which controls 70 per cent of the cigar trade in the world, has bet on marketing alternatives with sights set on the high-income market. One is the production of limited editions, the introduction of new cigar brands and other innovative actions with its trademark and stocks.
Cintra González announced during the inauguration of the Festival that the Habanos S.A. sales went up four per cent last year to up to 428 million dollars. Despite facing for some years a thorny foreign trade scenario, the firm’s executives are confident they will maintain the level of sales in 2016.
The effects of the economic crisis in European countries and the anti-smoking measures being generalised in that continent’s nations are sowing obstacles that can only be avoided based on a trade that bets on exclusivity and prestige of brands like the Cohiba. Europe is the principal destination of Cuban cigars, with 55 per cent of the total sales, followed by Latin America (16 per cent), Africa and the Middle East (15 per cent) and Asia (14 per cent).
The United States, one of the markets that consume the most cigars, remains banned for Habanos S.A. because of that country’s economic embargo laws. Experts in the cigar trade estimate that Cuba could export a minimum of 250 million dollars’ worth of cigars a year to the United States if the current talks to normalise relations between both countries are able to open the doors to Cuban cigars.
Habanos S.A. relies on the high quality, exclusiveness and prestige of its hand-rolled premium cigar brands, which are all backed by the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). “Of these 27 brands we have six which we denominate as global: Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta, Hoyo de Monterrey and U. Upmann, which make up around 80 per cent of our Havana cigar sales,” said the co-president of the company for the Cuban side, InocenteNúñez Blanco.
The Cuban-British joint venture, created in 1994, has a quota of 70 per cent of the world market in units and 80 per cent in stocks.
One of the Festival’s outstanding moments was the auctioning of a humidor made with ebony, sycamore and cedar woods and covered in 24-carat plated gold tobacco leafs and bars. This work of art, made by the French Elie Bleu firm, was sold for 320,000 euros.
The participants visited the Cohiba factory and the Vuelta Abajo plantations that contribute the leafswith which these cigars are made, in addition to participating in the usual cigar-making competitions and the longest cigar ash. This year’s winners of theHabano Sommelier Contest were Juan JesúsMachín (Cuba), Luis Manuel GarcíaUrrea (United Arab Emirates) and Pedro Tejeda (Cuba), in that order.
Habanos S.A. exports cigars to 150 countries based on the exclusiveness of its trademark and cigar brands, which it distributes through a network of Casas delHabano in almost the entire world. (2016)
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