Filipinos have long dreamed of opening their own cigar shops.
But as the cigar industry in the country has exploded in recent years, it’s become a tough sell.
In the past few years, there’s been a sharp increase in competition from overseas.
“You’ve got a lot of international cigar brands, you’ve got some of the same brands that are coming in from China, India, the Middle East,” says Maria Menezes, owner of the Philippine Cigar Company.
The Philippines has been on a buying spree.
“This is something we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” says Meneze.
Menezas started the company in 2008.
She sold it to her brother, and she started her own business.
Mignes says her first customer was a woman in her 50s.
“She’s a smoker.
She loved the taste and the flavor, and that’s why she bought a box,” she says.
She says the price was a lot less than the international brands, and it was still very reasonable.
But Menezers competitors say the prices have jumped since then.
“For us, this is our second year of being here,” says Juan Carlos Vazquez, a former employee.
“In the past, the prices of the cigars were lower, but now they’re getting higher. “
And it’s difficult to make the same price for a box of five. “
In the past, the prices of the cigars were lower, but now they’re getting higher.
“And I was hoping that it would be lower. “
When I opened the box, I was disappointed because they had a price of $12 for the whole box,” Vazowski says.
I don’t know how to get back on my feet. “
Now, it will cost me $20 to buy five cigars for my family.
But the Philippines is not the only country to be affected by the cigar boom. “
It’s going to take time for us to get used to the change,” Vazzquez adds.
But the Philippines is not the only country to be affected by the cigar boom.
In Canada, a similar business boom is causing competition among cigar retailers.
In Ontario, where a large number of Canadians have started to buy cigars, there have been more than a dozen local cigar shops opening in recent months.
Many of them have been small.
“We were having a hard time finding a place to sell to,” says Jim Levesque, owner and managing director of the Cigar Co-op of Ontario.
Levesques stores only sell about two dozen cigars a month, but he says that is still a huge market.
“There are now people from all over the world that are buying cigars in Ontario,” Levesques says.
The Co-Op also started selling cigars online.
But with so many people online, he says it’s hard to keep track of where customers are coming from.
Cigar companies are looking for new markets to open in Canada.
In 2018, Cigarco Canada, based in Toronto, launched in Quebec.
The company has been expanding and has about 15 locations across the country.
“Quebec is a great market to open here in Canada,” says Mike Wengler, CEO of Cigar Canada.
Wenglers Cigar Factory, in Burlington, Ont., has also expanded in recent weeks.
The new facility is in a renovated warehouse that has a new patio, a new kitchen, and a new area for storing cigar barrels.
Wensler says he has been trying to keep up with demand for cigars in Canada, which is the only province that has legal retail sales of the product.
“If we were to have a brick and mortar store, we would have a hard sell,” he says.
Wenzler says they have had some success with Canadian customers, but there’s still a lot more to do.
“Canada is one of the fastest growing markets for cigar sales in the world,” Wenslers says.
Cigarette smokers, like Levesq, are now looking for a place where they can buy a box or a cigar.
Cigars are also being seen as a healthier alternative to tobacco.
“They can smoke in a lot quieter environment, and they don’t have the smoke of a cigarette burning in your lungs,” says Levesuews son, Adam.
Adam Levesuez is now an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of public health.
“One of the biggest challenges we face as a nation is tobacco control,” says Wenslies Cigar factory manager Chris Dyer.
Dyer says that tobacco use in Canada is up about 25 percent from last year.
“What we’re seeing is a shift away from cigarettes and towards cigars,” Dyer adds.
“The numbers just keep going up.
Cigarettes are down 40 percent, cigars are down 30 percent.”