GT factory plans on schedule
General Tobacco presses on toward opening of Rockingham County, NC tobacco factory
By David Williams
General Tobacco is continuing with its plans to open a manufacturing facility in Rockingham County, North Carolina, near Charlotte.
Ronald Denman, General Tobacco’s general counsel and vice president, said in a recent interview that plans were “to get it up and running as quickly as possible.”
“We hope to have the first machines arriving in the beginning of the year, and production beginning by February,” he said. “We should have everything completed, I would hope, by April or May.”
The plant, located in Mayodan, replaces the company’s Colombian plant. Denman said the plant will use American flue-cured tobacco instead of the Colombian leaf General Tobacco uses in its Colombian factory.
“We are going to do out best to try and maintain, or to duplicate, the same flavor and the blends to the extent that we can use American leaf while still maintaining the same flavor and blends,” Denman said. “One of our blends is primarily a Colombian blend, so on that product we may use less American tobacco. But on the others, we use American tobacco as much as possible. Of course, price will be a consideration.”
Denman said the company would be able to alter its blends to get the same flavor General Tobacco’s customers are accustomed to in it’s brands. If the blend cannot be reached satisfactory, Denman said the company would increase the amount of Colombian leaf in the new blend to duplicate t he flavor.
“Of course, I would like to use all American tobacco,” he said. “If we can, and maintain the exact same blend and flavor so that our customers are still satisfied with the product we put out there, I’d love to do so. Obviously, price will be a consideration. I am not sure exactly what it will cost. I am hopeful that we will be able to use as much American tobacco as possible.”
In addition to access to American leaf, Denman said the new plant is perfectly located to access an experienced and deep labor force, many of whom will be transitioning from jobs with Philip Morris’ plant, which is slated to close. Most of that labor force in experienced with the equipment General Tobacco’s plant will be using.
The plant is initially expected to cost in the range of $25 million. Denman said the plant will use Hauni and Fauke equipment.
“It really all came down to a matter of speed, pricing, service, technicians, installation,” he said. “It was a matter of what was the most economical package, all things considered.”
General Tobacco has recently launched roll-your-own versions of it’s GT One and Bronco brands.
“We were quite surprised by the amount of reception that we got to it,” said Denman. “We were surprised with how well it was received, and are making plans on producing more.”
The roll-your-own market has expanded in recent years, and General Tobacco believes it is positioned to take advantage of that growth. Denman said more roll-your-own versions of GT brands could be out in the coming years. He mentioned that General Tobacco could “potentially” come out with a snus product in the future.
“But I think our main strategy right now is just to continue to grow, to expand the markets we have where we are incredibly strong,” he said. “There are parts of the country where we have an incredible following. If we can continue to expand some of the markets outside of those areas, I think it will really strengthen our overall position.”