SS December 2015

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18 SMOKESHOP December 2015 Industry NEWS Altadis Unveils New Honduran-Grown Yargüera Hybrid Tobacco Variety Yargüera, a new hybrid tobacco seed developed by Altadis U.S.A. and grown at the Yargüera tobac- co farm in Honduras, "will lead the next wave of Honduran tobac- cos and cigars for years to come," said the manufacturer. The original Yargüera seed was brought over to Honduras from Cuba in the 1960s by the Arias family. The family culti- vated the sweet-tasting and aromatic tobacco for decades, though it was a delicate and challeng- ing crop. To reinvig- orate the seed, agronomists from Altadis U.S.A.'s grupo de mae- stros—veteran master blenders— began a program to combine its delicious flavors and aromas with the heartier and more robust Criollo'98 seed. After years of careful effort, they created a tobacco that contained the best qualities of each variety. At the end of 2013, the new seed was planted at the Yargüera farm, a landmark tucked between two mountains in La Entrada, Copán. in western Honduras. The new, estate- grown tobacco honors the farm with its name. "Hybridization, innovation, and passion are key ingredients in producing something special," stated Altadis U.S.A. in announc- ing the new tobacco variety. The the first new cigar from Altadis U.S.A. to use the initial 2014-2015 Yargüera tobacco crop will be Yargüera H. Upmann, which is slated for release in February 2016. Sweeping Restructuring Efforts Underway at Villiger Cigars North America charlotte, n.c.—Villiger Cigars North America, the U.S. division of Swiss-based Villiger Söhne AG, ushered in the latest changes—and most sweeping to date—in an ongoing restructuring effort that started over a year ago and is now rebuilding the entire U.S. operation from ground up with a company relocation, new sales structure, and new distribution system all in the works. Following the resignation in early December of Shawna Williams, the company's vice president of sales who, along with longtime c.f.o. Patrick Fitzgerald, had assumed the duties of former president Roy MacLaren, nearly the entire remaining U.S. staff was abruptly let go several weeks later, prompting a sudden announcement to the trade from managing director Michael Blumendeller that Villiger North America, Inc. was in fact still in operation. "Rest assured, Villiger Cigars is open for business and we are still in the U.S. market and we are here to stay," Blumendeller said in a statement. "We also take our commit- ment to the American market very seriously. Over the past few months, we have made necessary changes in an effort to strengthen our core business and values." Blumendeller announced the company will be relocating its headquarters to the Miami area in early 2016, and will also be parting ways with Richmond, Va.-based Sutliff Tobacco Company, which the company had just partnered with in April to han- dle its U.S. warehousing, distribution, and sales logistics. "The move to Florida will allow us more convenient access to the ports-of-entry as well as ease of access to our manufacturing facilities in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Brazil." No details were provided as to whether distribution would be established in-house. "Our time at Sutliff Tobacco Company has been short but very successful," Blumendeller stated, "and we are forever grateful for the outstanding support they have given us as we worked to determine the best course of action for the future of our American structure." Blumendeller said the company wasn't prepared to announce its new general man- ager yet, but that the person brings many years of cigar industry experience to guide the Villiger Söhne's North American subsidiary into its next phase. Perhaps the biggest immediate change for retailers was the loss of nearly all of the company's sales reps. "As part of this restructure, we have determined it best for the interim to strategically move to a sales structure of brokers and inside sales sup- port," Blumendeller explained. "We greatly appreciate our customers' business and loyalty and commit to make this time of transition and restructuring as seamless as possible," Blumendeller stat- ed, adding that the company plans to launch a "few"new cigars at the 2016 IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas. Founded in 1888 and based in Pfeffikon, Switzerland, family-owned Villiger Söhne AG is a major producer of European-style machine-made cigars that only recently entered the premium, hand rolled cigar segment with the creation of the Villiger 1888 brand in 2008. Its efforts to establish a solid U.S. footing have faced a number of twists and turns. Villiger North America Corp. was first established in Florida in 1999 as Villiger Söhn's U.S. distributor. In 2005 the company created Villiger Stokkebye International, a new Charlotte, N.C.-based joint venture with Eric Stokkebye that incor- porated some of the pipe tobacco business of the former company, Peter Stokkebye International. In 2008, Stokkebye stepped down and Roy MacLaren, a former Gurkha Cigar executive, was named president and the company was rebranded Villiger Cigars North America. In late 2014, Villiger Söhne removed both MacLaren and marketing director Fabian Barrantes amid differing visions for the U.S. business.

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