When asked what it the most popular cigarette brand in the world, the majority of adult smokers would probably name one of the iconic brands, such as Marlboro, Winston or Lucky Strike, produced by the world’s largest tobacco companies, Philip Morris International,Japan Tobacco International andBritish American Tobacco.
Nevertheless, if considering only the slim cigarette market segment, it seems that those legendary brands were bypassed by a newcomer, named ESSE and manufactured by South Korean KT&G, which has been steadily growing and capturing international market share.
The Seoul-based tobacco maker reported a two-fold growth in exports, selling 20.8 billion ESSE cigarettes on the international market, up from 11.2 billion in 2009, to outstrip its major competitors, Philip Morris’s Virginia Slims and British American Tobacco’s Vogue.
According to Euromonitor International, a UK consulting agency, KT&G sold 29.2 billion ESSE cigarettes in 2009, while PMI sold 17 billion Virginia Slim cigarettes and BAT sold 11 billion Vogue cigarettes.
“Since its launch in 1996, we have developed Esse cigarette brand as our global flagship brand. This premium brand is currently selling in more than 40 markets across the world including Middle East countries and Russia,” admitted Huh Up, director of global businesses for KT&G.
“It should be mentioned that ESE is currently the best-selling brand in super-slim segment of cigarette market in Iran, Indonesia and Uzbekistan. In Russia, ESSE holds more than 10 percent share of the super-slim segment.”
Mr. Huh mentioned that KT&G, former state-owned cigarette maker, entered the global cigarette market a decade ago, after the domestic market demonstrated saturation.
Trying to promote ESSE and make it a world-famous tobacco product, KT&G showed its potential at organizing various marketing events.
At present, the company is an overwhelming leader of the Korean cigarette market, with 85 percents of the domestic super-slim market.
When one of the styles of ESSE, was launched in the domestic market, it took about a week to reach milestone sales of 10 million packs, becoming the shortest ever period for the company.
“While exporting ESSE brand to other markets, we have opened several manufacturing units in major markets to keep up with growing sales”, Huh admitted. In addition, the company is set to promote its other brands and acquire competitive brands in order to become a solid player on the international tobacco market.
KT&G invested nearly $100 million to establish a production line in Kaluga Region, Russian Federation, in order to supply Eastern Europe region with ESSE cigarettes.
In addition, the company as well: opened manufacturing units in Turkey and Iran to work with Middle East and Asian markets.