From Zero to
Full Speed in RYO

The small specialty tobacco manufacturer Conwood Company of Memphis, Tenn. went from zero to number one in roll-your-own/make-your-own (RYO/MYO) tobacco on January 1.

By Chris Brickers

That’s when Reynolds American International (RAI) combined its Lane Limited subsidiary of Tucker, Ga. — a specialty tobacco company the company acquired at the time of its merger with Brown & Williamson in 2004 — with Conwood, which Reynolds purchased in May of 2006. The merger was pursued “in order to drive growth in the companies’ portfolio of other tobacco products,” says Reynolds American.

Now, Conwood is the manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of the full line of Lane Limited products. This includes four American blends: Bugler, mid-priced and the leading RYO brand in the U.S.; Kite, also mid-priced and the leading menthol RYO; Midnight Special, a popular brand in the value-priced segment; and Roll Rich.

There are also several imported mixes in the company’s lineup, including the halfzwares — Samson and Jester — both from Holland.

Management of the Lane brands may have moved to Memphis, but they are still made in the shadow of Stone Mountain rather than on the banks of the Mississippi River. The RYO products are made in Lane’s main building in downtown Tucker, a suburb of Atlanta. The company has another factory a short distance from the first.

A worker at Lane’s manufacturing line.
With strong brands in every price segment, Lane has been a major factor in rise of RYO in the U.S., and now as part of the Conwood operation it appears committed to continued growth for these products.

But they are not the only tobacco products made by the company. The portfolio includes pipe tobaccos like Captain Black, Dunhill, and Express 555 premium international cigarettes as well as little cigars and premium Dunhill cigars.

The purpose of the merger is to consolidate and drive the companies’ portfolio of other tobacco products.

“Our goal is to have the two companies fully integrated by the end of 2007, and we are well on our way to securing that goal,” an RAI spokesperson told Smokeshop. “The main change was in the headquarters staff. All the manufacturing facilities operate as they have in the past.”

Rick King has recently been named president of Lane Limited. His predecessor Nick Bumbacco has taken a different post within the RAI organization, as vice president of strategy development for RJRT. Bumbacco had held the Lane position only about a year and a half. His predecessor, Olli Gräsbeck, elected to stay with British American Tobacco after the merger and went on to accept a position as c.e.o. of BAT’s global “snus” smokeless tobacco business based at BAT’s London headquarters.

Conwood-Lane is not the only RJRT subsidiary that makes and sells roll-your-own. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco continues to manufacture three styles in its Oxford, N.C. factory: Its original blend, an all-U.S. leaf blend and an organic blend, which is also grown entirely in the U.S.

Before the merger, the Dr. Grabow line of pipes and pipe filters in Sparta N.C. had been an important part of Lane Limited’s business. But RAI sold the line, along with Dill’s pipe cleaners, to International Pipes and Accessories.

SMOKESHOP - February, 2007