Altria Buys ‘Boutique’ Cigarette Brands in Nat Sherman

RICHMOND, Va. -- Altria Group has expanded into what some call “boutique” brands by acquiring the privately held Sherman Group Holdings, which includes the Nat Sherman lines of superpremium cigarettes and premium cigars, officials said in a press release.

New York-based Nat Sherman will join Philip Morris USA and John Middleton Co., as reported in a McLane/CSP Daily News Flash, as part of Altria’s “smokeable products segment,” said officials with Richmond, Va.-based Altria.

In light of British American Tobacco’s recent move on Reynolds American, John Strickland, president of Wayne Oil Co., Goldsboro, N.C., said that consolidation is a definite trend among tobacco manufacturers, but one that will probably not have much affect on consumers.

Altria’s move was a solid decision, Strickland said, but will mean more in terms of efficiencies and an improved portfolio for manufacturers vs. any new products or offers to consumers. “Nat Sherman is a ‘boutique’ brand of cigars and will complement the portfolio of brands by Altria,” Strickland told CSP Daily News. “Historically, Altria does not innovate well and they acquire rather than innovate.”

“Nat Sherman has a terrific brand portfolio which complements Altria’s existing smokeable product segment,” said Marty Barrington, chairman, CEO and president of Altria. “Nat Sherman will benefit from the retail distribution, brand management and adult-tobacco-consumer engagement expertise of Altria’s companies.”

“We are excited to have our family’s business join the Altria family of companies,” said Bill Sherman, executive vice president of Nat Sherman. “We believe Altria will be a great steward of the Sherman company and its brands.”

While discussing Nat Sherman’s recent progress with CSP Daily News prior to the acquisition announcement, Matt Spillane, vice president of sales for Nat Sherman, said the company reached a milestone, having sold 1 million units during the 43 weeks ending Oct. 29, 2016, citing data from New York-based Nielsen and its convenience panel.

Growth in its Nat Sherman brand was 45% year to date as of October 2016 and 93% for its Natural Kings brand, Spillane said. That means more than 700,000 Natural Kings packs were sold year to date in convenience stores, which was 340,000 more than last year, Spillane told CSP Daily News.

Nat Sherman was founded in 1930 as a family-owned and operated business. Nat Sherman cigarettes are manufactured in Greensboro, N.C., and are currently in limited distribution throughout the United States. The company also operates a flagship store in New York City.

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