So Wednesday was interesting.
But before we get started, a quick refresher on the Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE). It’s an annual trade show hosted by Kretek International/Phillips & King, a California-based distributor of tobacco products and others. Readers of this website are probably most familiar with the company for Ventura Cigar Co., which it owns, but Kretek has a lot of other products. It sells to retailers around the country, mostly places you wouldn’t think of as a “cigar shop,” i.e. a discount tobacco outlet and independent tobacco stores, but it also probably sells to many of your local brick and mortar tobacconists.
TPE is a trade show attended by many cigar companies, though more of the attendance is in the vaping and growing alternative, i.e. marijuana, segments. To my knowledge this isn’t a full-blown cannabis show in the sense that companies are selling bud, but there certainly is a lot of cannabis-related products.
It’s a two-day trade show, though there’s a variety of educational seminars earlier in the week.
Yesterday was admittedly bizarre. I changed a flight so I could write the first of what would be two major acquisition announcements and then found myself talking to someone about the XIKAR deal while getting notice that Thompson has been purchased by STG. That led to a bit of a weird day in terms of what I did for the few hours I was actually at TPE.
That being said, I’ve spent the last two weeks explaining to various people in the cigar industry why I’m attending TPE and I figured I’d write those thoughts out today and save the coverage portion to tomorrow.
1. The decisions makers. While there are probably only a dozen and a half cigar and cigar-related companies with booths at the trade show, there are a lot of key decision makers in town. Between the larger distributors, cigar company executives and the handful of big retailers that show up, TPE draws a pretty remarkable crowd when it comes to the people who control much of the premium cigar industry.
2. Face time. Face time. Face Time. And on that note, TPE is a great time to meet with people for extended periods of time. There are people who I will have more face time with during one sit down at TPE than the rest of the year. It’s an extremely valuable aspect for what I do as it allows me to talk about what we are doing at halfwheel as well as the companies and some conversations at TPE have led to major stories in the future.
3. The walk down the vapor aisle. It’s no longer an aisle, but my stroll through the sea of vapor products is interesting. We don’t report on those products and I don’t use them, but I’m always curious to see just what’s going on. TPE is one of the places where I can do that with the other notable time being in September at the Intertabac trade show in Dortmund. On a similar note, it’s always curious to go to another trade show to pick up on anything we could do for our IPCPR coverage.
4. It’s a very short and well run show. Kretek spends money at TPE to make the show a fun experience with fancy cocktail hours, arcade games and promotion. I also flew in Wednesday morning and fly out tonight (Thursday). Those two factors combined with the above mean that the ROI for halfwheel is very easy to justify because it’s relatively inexpensive both time and money-wise compared to other events.
I know this isn’t very much coverage on TPE. I’m on my way over to the Las Vegas Convention Center right now to take a lot more pictures for tomorrow’s blog which will give you a much better idea of what the show is actually like.