For the 12th year, the Cigar Coop brand will be providing coverage of the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show and Convention. This is also the 12th consecutive trade show we are covering and are proud to be a part of a very small group of media to say that. Our four-part series for the 2022 PCA Trade Show has you covered whether you are going to the show or following from home.
PCA 2022 Pre-Game – The Things to Watch
As long as we have done a Pre-Game Series for the Trade Show, we have tried to analyze potential trends. Originally this was more product and industry-centric, but over the years this has evolved to also include things to notice about the Trade Show itself.
The following are this author’s thoughts on what to expect this year at the Trade Show (in no particular order). I also offer some insights on why these trends are happening and their impacts.
1. Where are all of the new regular production lines?
From following the Big Board, it seems one theme is rather clear – there are not a lot of regular production lines being introduced in 2022.
As Steve Saka has said, “every line is limited” in terms of its production. But for the purposes of this exercise, I’ll define three specific categories:
- Regular Production – ongoing production, no specific cap on production numbers has been made public
- Limited Production – ongoing production, but a specific cap on production is public
- Limited Edition – one-time production run, then done
If you look at the three categories, Regular Production carries the most risk compared to the other categories. There is more investment upfront in terms of securing tobacco and marketing dollars needed to create a regular production line. Time then must be allocated to ensure consistency throughout the run.
On the flip side, Limited Edition – a one and done has the least risk. It requires less tobacco, and depending on the company, they may not even have to market it. With a Trade Show like PCA, going the Limited Edition route makes it easier and less risky to get something out there to answer the question “What’s New?”
For completeness, the Limited Production category falls in between Regular and Limited Edition. This provides an avenue for companies to look at products that could be potential regular offerings. This carries a little more risk, but it’s a nice way to introduce a product that could become a part of the portfolio.
The Net/Net: Given a lot of the circumstances around this being the first “normal” trade show in three years, it doesn’t surprise me that companies are going the limited route. In other words, don’t expect a flurry of upcoming regular production announcements before the show.
2. Where are all of the 2022 Product Announcements?
I seem to mention this somewhere in my pre-game report every year. Those times, I called it false news, but in 2021, for the first time, it seemed to be true. This was due to a combination of COVID-19 on factory production, supply chain issues, and big print media putting the pressure on companies for exclusive coverage of stories.
Much like 2021, 2022 seems to be the same story as there does seem to be a slowdown in product announcements. While COVID-19 isn’t having as much of an impact on production as last year, I believe the combination of supply chain issues and big print media exclusives are slowing down several of the product announcements. We will see after the trade show if there truly are fewer products.
3. Higher Priced Cigars
While much has been made about price increases, perhaps the biggest story is that there are a lot more higher-priced cigars being introduced this year.
From reviewing the product announcements thus far, there seems to be a trend of new cigars being released at higher price points. It seems like there are more $12.00 and up cigars than in previous years. Much of this can be attributed to inflation, tobacco costs, and other operational costs. What is interesting is these prices seem to be coming from new companies with unproven track records.
Limited editions can command higher price points since the supply is limited and the expectation that the desired product isn’t going to be readily available in the future.
The price points are going to make it harder for the next regular production core lines to make it big. The bottom line is companies with proven track records will have difficulty doing this with $12.00 and over cigars and unproven companies will have an even tougher time.
One use case to consider is: if a retailer has XYZ dollars put aside, are they willing to roll the dice on an unproven cigar or go back and purchase a tried and true brand that does well in their shop? This is certainly not a new problem but one certainly amplified with the higher price points being seen.
4. Will the PCA Exclusive Series go next level?
Much like the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA) has an exclusive set of cigars for its members provided by manufacturers, the PCA has been promoting a similar concept for those attending the trade show.
|Ace Prime||Maria Luca||New Line|
|Aganorsa Leaf||Aganorsa Leaf Aniversario Maduro||Line Extension
(Note: This will also be offered to Aganorsa Select retailers)
|CLE Cigar Company||CLE PCA Exclusive 2022
Asylum PCA Exclusive 2022
|Crowned Heads||Sfumato in C Major||New Release|
|Crux Cigars||Crux Limitada (The Show/Short Salomone)||Re-Released|
|Kristoff||Kristoff PCA 2022 Signature Series||New Release|
|La Palina||La Palina Goldie Prominente||Re-Release|
|Padrón Cigars||Padrón Family Reserve No. 96 (Maduro and Natura)||Line Extension|
|Rocky Patel Premium Cigars||Rocky Patel ALR 2nd Edition||Re-Release|
|Tatuaje||Tatuaje PCA 2022||New Line|
There are several problems I have with the PCA program. First, most of the releases simply do not excite me. If I was a retailer on the fence about going to the Trade Show, the collection as a whole wouldn’t move the needle. While it’s easy to get excited about a new Padrón, it was announced only a week before the show. As I have said several times, these releases needed to be communicated 90 days in advance and actively promoted to get retailers motivated to attend the show. The PCA did their part in promoting the releases. They also put criteria and a deadline for such releases of March 30th.
In 2021 PCA had its challenges managing this program. Last year, the PCA Exclusives were supposed to make it in the VIP packages and be displayed in a pavilion – that did not happen mostly due to product availability. I sincerely hope the pavilion happens this year as I think it would be a great thing for this series.
It seems to me that the PCA has taken on the burden of promoting releases and managing the program as a whole. I would much rather see the PCA focusing on other activities and the manufacturers doing more to promote the exclusive series.
In the end, if I was a retailer, I would have some curiosity about the exclusive cigars, but not enough track record or information to push me over the edge on whether to go to the show or not.
5. Will Products in Violation of Responsible Marketing Be Removed from the Trade Show?
One of the most controversial topics of 2022 is cigar packaging which can be construed as marketing to minors. It’s a challenge that the PCA has taken on this year. On Prime Time Episode 231, Executive Director Scott Pearce said guidelines will be presented and enforced if needed.
Pearce has said the FDA has reached out about attending the trade show and does plan on being represented. This has ramped up the urgency to have some sort of enforcement of responsible marketing at this year’s trade show.
While I don’t see a lot of products falling into this category exhibiting at the trade show, the issue of responsible marketing is out there. In fact, for the most part, the manufacturing and distribution companies that have opposed this represent a very small segment of those against Responsible Marketing.
The retailers are very much another story. I’m curious to see the Sunday Government Affairs breakout session and how the retailers react. There are many retailers who simply don’t want to be told what they can sell. It could make for a lively discussion. In the end, I think this seminar will be more controversial than any product being showcased at PCA 2022.
6. Who Has Returned to the Trade Show in 2022?
Our 2021 PCA Big Board has a full list of who is in, who is not going, and those companies that may still be on the fence. Most notably, the following companies are making a return after being absent for one or more years.
- Casa Cuevas Cigars
- DBL Cigars
- Erez Cigars
- Foundation Cigar Company
- Garo Cigars
- La Flor Dominicana
- Micallef Cigars
- Pospiech Cigars
- RoMa Craft Tobac
- Selected Tobacco
- United Cigars
- Villiger Cigars
Villiger’s return is interesting. Back in 2019, the company had made a decision to focus on the TPE Trade Show. It appears to have decided to give PCA another try. Companies such as Casa Cuevas, Foundation Cigar Company, La Flor Dominicana, Micallef, and others skipped the 2021 show for various business reasons, but are now making a return.
This is a good thing for the PCA Trade Show and I expect a welcome reception for all of the returning companies.
7. More First Time Exhibitors
It looks like there are more first-time exhibitors and new companies than in the past several years. Below is a list of some of the key companies, but it is by no means a complete list.
- Don Doroteo Cigars
- Founders Cigar Company
- Freud Cigar Company
- Luxury Cigar Club
- Nomos Cigars
- Ozgener Family Cigars
- Stallone Cigars
- Tabac Trading Company
- West Tampa Tobacco Company
The three most prominent companies that are launching are Freud Cigar Company, Ozgener Family Cigars, and West Tampa Tobacco Company. Freud Cigar Company is getting a lot of attention because of the connections with Eladio Diaz (blending the Agape Limited Edition) and Tabacalera William Ventura (where Wiber Ventura is producing the Superego core line) The latter two companies are covered in the next section.
Like the companies returning, it’s always good to see new companies at the show. If they have a good show sales-wise, that is even better.
8. The CAO Legacy
One story many remember from the 2015 IPCPR Trade Show was the launch of Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Company and Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. It was the first trade show for Melillo and Saka in their post-Drew Estate careers. This year something similar is happening as former CAO alumni Tim Ozgener and Rick Rodriguez are going to be at their first trade show in their post-CAO careers. Ozgener is back at PCA with Ozgener Family Cigars and Crowned Heads while Rick Rodriguez will be in attendance with West Tampa Tobacco Company.
While Melillo and Saka worked together at Drew Estate, Ozgener and Rodriguez’s tenure was for the most part separate. For over 25 years, Ozgener and Rodriguez combined to be the face of the CAO brand. When Ozgener departed CAO following the brand being absorbed into General in 2010, Rodriguez stepped in and took the role.
Both Ozgener and Rodriguez’s brands are going to garner considerable attention among the new companies, and no doubt will be the story of the trade show. Rodriguez was not at the 2021 Trade Show because Scandinavian Tobacco Group was one of the Big Four who stayed home, so he will have a welcome return. Ozgener’s return has been 12 years in the making, and what’s very interesting is he will be alongside his former CAO compatriots Jon Huber and Mike Condor.
The bottom line: the return of Ozgener and Rodriguez will be talked about quite a bit this year.
9. Status of the Big Four
In 2020, four companies collectively known as “The Big Four” (Davidoff, Drew Estate, Scandinavian Tobacco Group, and Tabacalera USA) announced they were withdrawing from the 2020 PCA Trade Show. At the time this happened, I predicted: “a long winter” – namely the differences the Big Four had with PCA were too deep for this to resolve sooner.
It’s actually the second PCA Trade Show without these companies. I expect a feeling of optimism this year by some that we may see one or more of the Big Four return to PCA in 2023. In reality, its too early to make any assumptions, and other than “gut feel,” I’m not sure one can determine if this is real or not.
Like 2021, you will hear from many the notion the PCA Trade Show is better off without them. I contend the cigar industry’s biggest stage is not better without iconic brands like Montecristo, Macanudo, Liga Privada, and Davidoff.
But the Big Four won’t be entirely gone from the Trade Show. Ferio Tego, a brand distributed by Davidoff, will be at the Trade How. In addition, Room101 Cigars, which was recently acquired by Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), will also be there. In the end, the presence of Ferio Tego and Room101 gives Davidoff and STG a small foot in the door at this year’s PCA show.
10. Less Economy of Scale for Booths
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, there was a lot of uncertainty going into the 2021 PCA Trade Show. At the same time, there was only 100 days to get the PCA Trade Show planned and put on. Because of this uncertainty, many companies would downsize their booths. Some opted for open space seating areas with some glass cabinets to display product. Some went for the open space and did not display product. I called this “economy of scale.”
Last year, in the PCA Post-Game Report, I wrote:
I’ve heard all of the positive spins. “This is more cost-effective”, “This reminds me of the old RTDA Days”, and “It’s easier to get around the Trade Show floor.” While I understand the circumstances of this Trade Show were special as we are coming out of the COVID pandemic, I’m not not going to sugarcoat this – I didn’t like it. I can certainly agree that in the past some booths got way too big and way too elaborate for this size industry, but there has to be a happy medium. This is our industry trade show. Premium cigars are a luxury product, thus it needs to look more professional.
While I don’t think we get back to the grand scale of booths we saw prior to the pandemic, I do think we will see some improvement in the booth setups. I’ve already heard some reports that some companies will be improving from some of the “bare bones” booths we saw last year (Tatuaje has already indicated it will upgrade its booth, but not get back to 2019 standards).
Without the Big Four, there has been an absence of grand-scale booths, but companies such as Rocky Patel, Arturo Fuente, J.C. Newman, and Gurkha are expected to have large booths.
11. Are You Ready for the Next Generation?
Last year, José Manuel Blanco, the son of Jochy Blanco, introduced his first blend to the market. This year, Litto Gomez Jr. (son of Litto Gomez), and Alec Cuevas (son of Luis Cuevas) will garner considerable attention with the releases of Solis and Sangre Nueva respectively.
Over the years we have been seeing more and more of the next generation take on roles as cigar makers and/or operations managers. Alec and Bradley Rubin, Nicholas Perdomo III, Max Fernandez, Lisette Perez-Carrillo, Jenny and Jaime Garcia, and Enrique Seijas are all examples. In the end, the infusion of “new blood” into the industry and specifically the PCA Trade Show is a good thing.
12. The Year of the Lonsdale?
I’m not saying there has been a large amount of Lonsdale-sized vitolas been announced pre-show, but it certainly seems like the Lonsdale is making a comeback in the market. While I’ve joked about it, I’m still not ready to proclaim this to be the Year of the Lonsdale. But I will say that when I see companies like E.P. Carrillo, Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua releasing Lonsdales, I believe others take notice.
The Lonsdale is probably one of the least popular vitolas in the market, but we know lack of popularity of a size hasn’t stopped cigar companies – just look at Lanceros. But what I think we will see is more attention on those companies that will be releasing a Lonsdale.
Other Installments of the PCA 2022 Pre-Game Series
- Prime Time Episode 231: Scott Pearce, Premium Cigar Association
- Prime Time Episode 232: Media Panel #13 – PCA 2022 Pre-Game Edition
- Prime Time Episode 233: 2022 Virtual Trade Expo Day One
- Prime Time Episode 234: 2022 Virtual Trade Expo Day Two (Airing 6/30)
- Sunday 6/27/22: PCA Pre-Game Series Part 1: The Logistics
- Sunday 7/3/22: PCA Pre-Game Series Part 2: The Things to Watch
- Thursday 7/7/22: PCA Pre-Game Series Part 3: Predictions for the Impact Cigars
- Friday 7/8/22: PCA Pre-Game Series Part 4: Selection for “The Company” of the 2022 PCA Trade Show