Cigar Insider's 19th retailer tobacconist poll addressed every major metropolitan city in the country, and even went off the beaten path to places like Livingston, Montana and Rutland, Vermont. From huge cigar emporiums to smaller tobacconists, this year's response to Insider's survey showed positive news—sales are up. More than 67 percent of the cigar shops polled reported that business has increased over the last year. Between high tobacco taxes, anti-smoking legislation, the threat of FDA regulation and smoking bans, retailers across the country say that, although these issues pose problems, they're still showing higher numbers this year, regardless.
With the reported increase in sales, what are their customers buying? According to the poll numbers, Padrón, mostly. More than 62 percent of retailers indicated that Padrón was the best-selling brand by volume and thus named Cigar Insider's best-selling cigar brand of 2014.
Arturo Fuente came in as the second best seller by volume with 37.5 percent of retailers reporting that the Fuentes brands are among their best-selling smokes. A. Fuente y Cia. makes all its cigars in the Dominican Republic and, like Padrón, is a family-owned operation. This is the third year it has maintained its position as the second best-selling cigar and has been in business for more than 100 years.
Swiss company Davidoff of Geneva secured the No. 3 position, as 34.4 percent of cigar shops reported selling more Davidoffs than any other brand. Like the first two best sellers, this is also the third consecutive year that Davidoff makes it as the third best-selling brand in the United States, however, it came in much closer to Fuente this year than last.
Though the percentages have changed slightly from last year, the positions of the No. 4 to No. 7 spots are still identical with Romeo y Julieta as the fourth best-seller, followed by the Ashton brand, Rocky Patel and My Father. Two brands tied for the No. 8 best-selling smoke: Perdomo and Macanudo, which improved from last year's No. 11 spot. Oliva remained in the same ranking with the No. 10 best-selling cigar.
The list is certainly indicative of one thing—Nicaraguan tobacco is very popular. Of the top 10 brands, four of the companies are headquartered in Nicaragua. The rest either have cigars manufactured by contract in Nicaragua or use the country's tobacco in some capacity.
Nicaragua also dominated Cigar Insider's Hottest Brand category, which is defined as the cigar brands that consumers request the most, though not necessarily what tobacconists sell the most of in terms of sheer volume.
For the second consecutive year, the Nicaraguan Liga Privada cigar is the hottest cigar of 2014, but it isn't alone. The Liga tied with Tatuaje for the No. 1 spot.
Last year, the difference between the two was less than 2 percent. This year, Tatuaje and Liga Privada are even with exactly 25 percent of retailers reporting that these two were the brands that consumers have been clamoring for the most. Not far behind at 23.4 percent, Padrón retains last year's position at the No. 3 hot spot followed by Rocky Patel at No. 4.
Three cigar lines tied for fifth hottest brand: Ashton, Fuente Fuente OpusX and the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series. At less than a year on the market, Davidoff Nicaragua has quickly established itself as a hot cigar, tying with Arturo Fuente and Romeo y Julieta for the eighth hottest brand of 2014.
For the full report, see the July 15 issue of Cigar Insider.