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Edgar Cullman Jr.

CEO, General Cigar Company
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

(continued from page 4)

CA: Have you sold some of your agricultural properties?

Cullman: Yes, we sold bits and pieces here and there. And, we've developed certain portions of the land for real estate. We use about a thousand acres for the nursery business, but in general, we still have plenty of growing acres.

CA: Let's talk about some of your brands. You can't start a conversation about cigars without talking about Macanudo. Why does Macanudo enjoy sales that no other brand in America can match?

Cullman: I think there are several reasons, Marvin. The first is that for every cigar that is made for the Macanudo brand, we have attempted to create a consistent smoke. So every time you buy a box or buy a single cigar, you know what you are getting. We do that with a tremendous inventory of tobacco, especially with the filler and binder. We age that tobacco. It's like what goes on in the champagne industry. They'll take seven or eight years of vintages and constantly blend them so that the end result of non-vintage bottles is a very good champagne that is consistent every time. There's no aspect of vintage to it. It's the same thing with our tobacco. Tobacco is a product of nature. It is affected by the weather and other factors to create a crop that is very strong, very mild, or it can be a heavy crop or a thin crop. If you have enough tobacco on hand, you can blend it several years together so that the outcome is a very consistent product. That's the first step.

The second factor is that we have consistently paid attention to Macanudo both from a marketing point of view as well as a sales point of view. We have not de-emphasized in any way the importance of Macanudo. That's one of the reasons you see Macanudo much more widely distributed than any other premium cigar. We even have concerns that we've gone too far. We pushed the brand into areas where maybe it doesn't belong, where it doesn't fit the brand's image. On the other hand, we have allowed some people to try Macanudo that maybe would never have tried it before, because it's available in a small superette on the corner that an individual might go to but wouldn't necessarily go to the tobacconist in the mall. And so they see it there, and yes, it's expensive, but you know, relative to the price of beer or anything else, it's not out of the question, so they might try it. That's one of the reasons why we have a wider audience, because we have this wide distribution and we've pushed it. We have a sales organization unlike many of the cigar companies in the premium end. They work both on our domestically made cigars and our premium handmade cigars. They carry both in their cars and they are responsible for the distribution of both. That's one of the reasons that Macanudo is consistently out there.

CA: What about the brand's marketing or advertising?

Cullman: We have been very consistent. We have always been an advertiser. Even before Cigar Aficionado, we were advertising Macanudo in various publications. As the industry declined, we were less aggressive, but still we were out there advertising.

CA: I remember seeing Macanudo ads for years, especially the golf ads.

Cullman: Exactly. We had various slogans, including, "This is a moment for Macanudo." They were very consistent, and I think that's another example that explains the brand's success.

CA: During the recent boom of the last three or four years, how has Macanudo responded in terms of sales, demand, inventory? Where, for instance, is it's volume today versus 1992, and where do you see it in five years? It is my understanding that Macanudo is in the 15-million-unit range.


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