In 1965, Nat Cicco (SEEK-oh) Churchill and Robusto Rejects first appeared. Their marketing concept first startled, then fired the cigar world’s imagination. They were the original cigars based on the idea of bargain-priced, hand-rolled cigars on the “factory rejects” theme.
They are hardly rejects, though, with fillers of extra-select-grade, medium-length Picadura (tobacco remnants), from Connecticut, Honduran and Dominican tobaccos … from some of America’s most prestigious and sought-after premium cigars.
Nat Cicco Rejects dominated that market segment for over three decades, until distribution problems stifled sales for Nat Cicco cigars. This left a vacuum, which was gradually filled by competitors’ similarly-branded but lower-quality budget cigars. “Factory seconds,” “throw-outs” and other names began to capitalize on what has become a burgeoning market segment … budget-conscious smokers.
In 2007, Zander-Greg, Inc., a Pasadena, California-based importer/distributor, acquired the distribution rights for the entire Nat Cicco lineup of affordable cigars. At the time, the industry was gearing up to meet this demand, just as the difficult economy awakened smokers to their performance and quality for the price. Those two factors made Nat Cicco the right cigar for the time … and beyond. Zander-Greg’s management was surprised to learn that without emphasizing the line, Nat Cicco sales still doubled in their first three years following their 2007 Zander-Greg re-launch. Past retailers and smokers alike began returning with enthusiasm. Thus, Zander-Greg’s acumen in acquiring the venerable brand, and their ambitious sales efforts laid a solid foundation for recapturing Nat Cicco’s former market dominance.
A New Age
Zander-Greg’s 2007 acquisition of Nat Cicco was perfectly timed. With the U.S. economy in a long decline, Nat Cicco cigars gained immediate attention. Former smokers and tobacco retailers remembered the Rejects’ superior tobaccos and craftsmanship, and welcomed Nat Cicco cigars back. Soon, Nat Cicco cigars took center stage in Zander-Greg’s portfolio.
Zander-Greg has systematically built on Nat Cicco Rejects’ success by expanding into higher-level cigar lines. From the Rejects’ machine-bunched filler and homogenized binder, the company next entered the premium cigar arena with their Cuban Legends brand … all handmade, featuring 100% medium-length, extra-select tobaccos … at $2.60 or less MSRP. This move caught the eye of premium cigar smokers who were eager to reduce cost … but not satisfaction. The price breakthrough came by adopting advanced, more efficient hand-bunching techniques … boosting workers’ output substantially and cutting prices.
The next jump … and a major one … was a vintage cigar to compete with the best boutiques.
Appearing in 2012, Nat Cicco’s Aniversario 1965 celebrates the Rejects’ creation date, and features connoisseur touches … extra aging, pigtail cap, wrapper-enclosed foot and high-quality Spanish cedar box.
To drive their point home, Zander-Greg has now debuted Nat Cicco HHB, a super-premium cigar in a black lacquer, piano-finish Spanish cedar humidor-style box that shows the cigar world how far Zander-Greg has come from its original budget-cigar beginnings.
Other favorites remain in the Nat Cicco inventory … Jamaican Rounds, Cuban Style, Governors (“It’s a Boy/Girl”) and Aromatics. Their former Plazas have been re-blended, joining the Nat Cicco Rejects line as Cuban Coronas. Zander-Greg, with a full Nat Cicco inventory of cigars for all smokers, is now prepared for the future.
Building Our Future
Zander-Greg’s mission statement with the Nat Cicco portfolio was to create a full-line brand identity, with cigars that satisfy the entire spectrum of smokers, from value- seekers to connoisseurs. This was accomplished in a systematic, planned-growth model, and has successfully reestablished the Nat Cicco name at all levels of the cigar world. From budget-priced to super premium cigars, Nat Cicco offers unique value and benefits at every price point. Now, the company is building market acceptance at the same measured and controlled pace to gain world recognition for the Nat Cicco name.
Nat Cicco’s runaway success now ranks it as the foremost name in Zander-Greg’s extensive catalog of fine cigars. From budget-priced to super premium offerings, Nat Cicco is gaining international recognition as the company’s “signature” brand. Complementing the cigars, an equally extensive lineup of distinctive and utilitarian Nat Cicco-branded cigar accessories is appearing at tobacco retailers.