Villiger Söhne AG, the renowned Swiss cigar maker, opened a factory in Nicaragua just over a month ago.
This decision aims to exercise total control of its production of premium cigars in that Central American country, from the purchase of raw tobacco to shipment. Although the proposed strategy is to strengthen and expand its position in all markets, there is no doubt that a key element is the proximity to the attractive US market, the world's largest sales market for premium cigars.
The factory, a modern facility located in Esteli, the epicenter of the Nicaraguan premium tobacco industry, is a company in partnership with Joya de Nicaragua, one of the most solvent firms in the production of hand-rolled cigars. Despite not having been officially inaugurated yet due to control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic, it began operations last October, after just 12 months of construction. It currently employs about 100 people, a number that they hope to increase very soon to about 160 people.
The Villiger company was founded in 1888 by Jean Villiger in the small town of Pfeffikon, Switzerland, where its main headquarters still operate today. Although its 133 years of existence make it one of the oldest and most recognized tobacco companies in the world, its foray into the premium cigar market dates back to just 2008, when they entered this elegant world at the hands of a cigar called Villiger 1888, made in the Dominican Republic.
The evolution that the installation of this new factory signifies for Villiger, occurs under the leadership of Villiger Cigars North America Inc., a subsidiary specially formed in 2000 to distribute handmade cigars in the US market. Although this instance of the company was restructured in 2016, within a few years of its inception it had made significant progress in the US market by adding brands such as Villiger Colorado and Villiger Talanga (made by Plasencia Cigars in Nicaragua) to its premium portfolio. Also incorporated in that period two other more avant-garde like Cabarete and Trill, conceived to attract young smokers. After 2016, Villiger North America moved its headquarters from North Carolina to Miami, Florida, to better serve the interests of the company in Latin America. In addition to this Nicaraguan factory, Villiger also owns a factory in Brazil, and contracts the ABAM factory in the Dominican Republic for other brands such as Bock and La Flor de Ynclan.
This new plant in Estelí, called Villiger de Nicaragua, is currently producing the brands that were previously manufactured in Joya de Nicaragua, under direct contract. Some of the best known are Villiger San’Doro, La Vencedora, La Meridiana, Corrida Nicaragua and Casa de Nicaragua. They also decided to transfer the development of the La Libertad brand, previously made in the Dominican Republic.
In essence, with its Nicaraguan plant, Villiger Söhne AG proves once again that it is an innovative and bold company that adjusts to the changing demands of the global tobacco market. This was recognized by the prestigious U.S. Tobacco Business Magazine, in 2020, when it presented its Hugo Chairman Award to Heinrich Villiger, 90, and the founder's grandson, in recognition of his tremendous contribution to the tobacco industry.
Images courtesy of Villiger Cigars North America