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Non-Cubans Go Global

Cigar companies have long been content to focus their sales efforts on the U.S. market, but today many are expanding their brands abroad

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Oliva has also created seven branded cigar lounges in Europe—three in Germany, two in Holland, one in Portugal and another in Switzerland—to advance its image among European cigar aficionados. Another is scheduled to open later in the year. Local laws have changed, prohibiting the advertising of cigar brands in some cases, so some of those lounges bear the name of its StudioTobac arm.
In the early days “the average guy didn’t know Oliva. You are starting, in a lot of cases, from scratch. We had to establish an image and a name,” says Shapiro. “We are now truly an international company—and it has really paid off.” More than 170 shops in Germany today carry Oliva cigars, more than any other country outside the United States.
International markets allow for different levels of competition than in the United States. Some of the biggest U.S. cigar companies, namely Altadis U.S.A. and General Cigar Co., can’t sell the lion’s share of their products abroad due to conflicts with Cuban brands. The Dominican Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann and Partagas, and the Honduran Punch, for example, can’t be sold outside of the United States. Without some of those big brands competing, sometimes smaller brands can find an unexpected foothold.
Daniel Marshall has been crafting fine humidors since 1982. He also has a small cigar business, selling smokes that bear his name, and his European cigar sales slightly outstrip U.S. sales. London, Austria and Germany have been good to him so far, and he is opening up sales in Spain. “I love the idea of breaking into a new territory,” says the tanned, slim Californian. “In Germany, my last name goes far,” he says, referring to the Marshall Plan, named for former General and U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, who laid out a strategy to rebuild Germany and Europe in the days following the Second World War. Marshall sees an increasing number of non-Cuban cigars in the humidors he has visited abroad. “I went into this cigar shop in Spain, and half the humidor was Nicaraguan,” he says. But he realizes global sales take time. “It’s very slow to build relationships over there,” he says.
Most cigar companies agree that expanding abroad is a long process, and that these are early days. But they also agree that it’s worth the investment. Even mighty Davidoff has eyes on further expansion. With 179 countries represented, and some 229 countries on the United Nations roster, “we still have 50 to get to,” says Hoejsgaard.
Kevin Shah Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, April 8, 2014 4:26pm ET
Still very hard to get people to try non-Cubans here in Malaysia. "Why smoke that when Cubans are the best? Give me a Cohiba." And why would I try to get them to switch anyway? A Siglo VI will go for US$60, while a typical Non-Cuban is about $15. -Kevin, La Casa del Habano Kuala Lumpur
Peter Carmichael Tokyo, Tokyo 107-0052, Japan, April 9, 2014 1:59am ET
How many of the Top 25 for 2013 were non-Cuban? Having lived in Asia for a number of years there are a great number of 'Cigar Aficionados' tired of paying the aforementioned $60 for a cigar. Bring on the competition and a decent smoke for under $10!
Kevin Shah Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, April 9, 2014 3:37am ET
But in some parts of Asia, it's a status thing. They want to smoke the best and the most expensive cigar. Cohiba is perceived as "the best" and Behikes are the most expensive, so those sell very well. They don't want to lose face in front of their friends/clients by buying a cheap $10 cigar. Everyone keeps the bands on the cigars when they smoke here. They want to be seen holding a Behike.
Abdul Hafiz Wahab Ampang, Selangor, Malaysia, April 9, 2014 9:11am ET
I think there is an increased presence of non-cubans in Malaysia. Although i'm not surprised that cubans are still the popular choice. But most non-cubans i found are very competitively priced and i think people should really give them a try!

I definitely enjoy certain non-cubans more than some cubans.
David Savona April 10, 2014 9:35pm ET
One of the things I love about our website is the wide range of visitors from around the world. On a recent check, I saw visitors over a three-week period from 147 different countries. Thanks for the comments from Japan and Malaysia.
Eddy Guerra April 12, 2014 10:04am ET
We have been importing Non - Cubans for about 10 years now in Thailand. At first it was rough but now they are moving like crazy. We even built a Whisky and Cigar bar (Whisgars) and we don't sell Cubans. I do agree about the status thing where people want a name brand but We put all CA ratings on our menu and people trust that. Eddy - Whisgars, Thailand
Menelaos Menelaou Lakatamia, Lefkosia, Cyprus, April 12, 2014 10:06am ET
Cubans or non Cubans really doesn t matter. A good cigar is a good cigar. Expensive or cheap? Does taste and aroma change with the money issue? A real aficionado doesn t care only to impress friends and business men. I dont think Behike is the best cigar money can buy anyway (i have a box). I also have some petit coronas Jose L Piedra bought 2006 with the old band(brown) and you cannot rally imagine the powerfull aroma serius taste they have today. Compare them with cohiba siglo 1 same oldies? Piedra is better by far.
I choose by taste and aroma. People who do it only for show can buy cheap cigars and just change the band lol.
I have all kinds of cigars in my humidors. I also try to roll my own too(from seed) and i respect them all cubans or non.
My criteria is taste, aroma and not just the brand. It s a shame best cigars propably been smoked just for show.
Relax on an armchair, serve yourself a good drink and share your cigar experience with real friends. That s the way i like it.
Cheers from Cyprus.
William Bostic Newark, NJ, US, April 14, 2014 10:30pm ET
I am in Tokyo visiting from NYC and the only non-Cubans that I see are Padrons. They only have Cubans here and its all because they have been brain washed but that will change once they get a cigar that is full flavored and full bodied for less than 20 bucks because they are getting killed by the prices they are paying for these Cubans.
Kevin Shah Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, April 16, 2014 3:00pm ET
Hey David, I have a great picture of us with Ajay and Gordon in Cuba during the Festival, really great meeting you guys.
I agree with the brain-washed thing but looking at the retailers point of view, why would they sell a $15 cigar when they make more money selling the $60? In America you guys are lucky in that you can play the volume game. In Malaysia we just don't have that much sales in terms of sticks sold, so we have to go for low volume/high price game instead of low price/high volume.
Don't get me wrong, I always try to find the right cigar for the customer based their taste and price range, but if they are going for the Behikes, who am I to dissuade them?
Guy Buscema Calvisson, Gard, France, April 22, 2014 11:22am ET
Dear sirs,
I think between Cubans and Non-Cubans,in the heart of the real cigar smoker Is taste, and the Cubans are the winners compared to the Non-Cubans ,that's clear but the real reason for the slow movement of Non-Cubans in Europe Is the fact that Non-Cuban are a curiousity Item,like the Dutch cigars years ago.For REAL taste,nothing beats a Cuban ,and that's what I'll be buying for a long time and It's got nothing to do with prices.I prefer a peso cigar to a Padron anytime.Thank you for your attention.
Pierre ROBLIN PUYREAUX, France, September 9, 2014 11:48pm ET
Currently I smoke 50% of Cubans, and 50% non-Cuban. The difference between the two is a much narrower range of aromas on the non-Cuban.
So why smoked, not Cuban? For the pleasure of discovery, hoping found an aromatic palette worthy of the name.
In addition, non-Cuban brands have so much range, it is very difficult to navigate, and it does not contribute to the taste of a particular brand. Several range are similar, in the same brand for a price that can vary from one to three.
I do not despair of non-Cuban, but for now the Cubans have a certain advantage.

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