It’s almost like a high-profile, celebrity-marriage break-up … or love-triangle kind of story … at least to pipe smokers. The immensely popular and historied Peter Stokkebye Pipe Tobacco line will ironically no longer be marketed by the US company sharing the same family name—Villiger-Stokkebye International. Starting April 1, 2012, Lane Limited of Tucker, GA will be the new U.S. distributor for Stokkebye tobaccos, as well as most of the other brands formerly distributed by Villiger-Stokkebye. These include: Orlik, W.Ø. Larsen, Stanwell, Erinmore, Escudo, Balkan Sasieni, Skandinavik, Sail Tobaccos, and Troost Tobaccos.
The Stokkebye family’s roots in tobacco can be traced as far back as the early-1880s when Erik-Peter Stokkebye became a cigar roller and opened his own retail shop in Odense, Denmark. In 1886, he bought out seven small tobacco manufacturers of cigars, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco to bring them all under one roof. Erik-Peter’s son, Erik-Poul worked in the tobacco business starting in the early 1900s—in Sumatra, Indonesia. He started by learning growing, fermentation and packing, and within four years was promoted to Inspector. In 1925, he moved back to Denmark and joined the family business. He eventually started his own company; the Erik Stokkebye Tobacco Co. It was around 1945 at the end of World War II, that Peter Stokkebye, (for whom the modern Stokkebye tobacco line is named) at only 15-years old, began to apprentice in the tobacco business. The Erik Stokkebye Tobacco Co. was later sold to Gallaher Tobacco Company of England, and became a subsidiary run by Peter Stokkebye.
In 1974, Peter decided it was time to run his own company again, and he started the Peter Stokkebye Tobacco Company. In 1977, a U.S. distribution center was established in South River, New Jersey. Peter’s oldest son, Erik, joined the family business in 1987 as a fourth generation member who earned a reputation as a sales and marketing expert, after apprenticing for many years in the tobacco business. Erik Stokkebye became President of Peter Stokkebye International, a division of Orlik Tobacco, in 1999. He has been the President of Villiger-Stokkebye International in Charlotte, North Carolina for the past 12-years.
Pipes Magazine spoke to Erik Stokkebye and Lane Limited about the surprising changes in distribution and to find out what the future holds.
Villiger-Stokkebye would only speak off-the-record at this time, and has decided to defer public comment until a later date.
With over 130-years of the Stokkebye family-name being in the tobacco business, but we do anticipate future news. Watch for it to break with Pipes Magazine at a later date. One small item that we can confirm is that ownership of the Villiger 1888 pipe tobacco line will remain with Villiger-Stokkebye.
[Editor’s note: Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) has owned the Peter Stokkebye brand for many years, and licensed the product distribution in the U.S. to Villiger-Stokkebye. In January 2011,STG purchased Lane Limited from Reynolds American. So, these changes are a way to keep everything under one roof … at least in the case of the products listed at the beginning of the article. STG also owns General Cigar, which among other products, distributes CAO and Dunhill pipe tobaccos. STG produces an immense portfolio of pipe tobaccos that go through a few different channels. We are only concerned here with the products that Lane Limited will take over from Villiger-Stokkebye.]
We spoke to Leonard Wortzel, Brand Manager for Pipe and RYO of Lane Limited.
Leonard W., Lane Limited; "Let me start off by saying that Peter Stokkebye sold the brand name ‘Peter Stokkebye’ to STG many years ago. That brand name was then licensed back to Stokkebye for exclusive distribution here in the U.S.
PipesMagazine: Villiger-Stokkebye sold these tobaccos directly to retailers, and Lane typically has a 2-step distribution. Should consumers expect any changes in availability and pricing? What about retailers? How will they order the products now? Do you feel you will be able to offer the same support to specialty retail tobacconists that they have relied on in the past?
Lane Limited: About 1/3rd of Villiger’s retailers were direct customers. The rest of the retailers out there all bought the products via the major wholesale distributors. Going forward, all retailers will purchase via wholesale distributors.
- Regarding availability: There are bound to be some out-of-stocks on a few skus over the next month as the transition takes place. After that, I’m personally committed to making out-of-stocks a thing of the past for the entire portfolio by making sure our warehouse is stocked to the gills.
Regarding pricing: The list price (the prices wholesale distributors pay) will NOT increase. We are committed to maintaining current price levels.
- Regarding retailers: Those that previously ordered directly through Villiger will now order via one of our over 1,000 wholesale distributor customers. Any retailer that needs a list of wholesale distributors can contact Lane Limited Customer Service.
- Regarding support of specialty retail tobacconists: Other than direct shipping, we should be able of offer them better support. We are, frankly, a larger company, and we are part of the world’s largest pipe tobacco company.
PM: What is the scope of the arrangement, and what is the territory covered?
LL: We are responsible for these brands and blends in the U.S.
PM: Whenever anything changes with a pipe tobacco blend, whether it be a change in packaging, or distribution, there usually tends to be a consumer perception that the blend itself has changed, and usually, not in a good way. What will be changing, if anything, and what will stay the same? Will there be any discontinued products? What’s the good news for the retailers and consumers?
LL: Nothing is changing. All of the products will be continued to be made at the exact same factory with the exact same recipes and the exact same leaf. No products are being discontinued. I think the best news for both consumers and retailers are that things are NOT changing. The product will be exactly the same. The list price will be exactly the same. The portfolio will be exactly the same. And now, since we are not simply ordering from a factory—we ARE the factory—out-of-stock issues on even more obscure brands and blends should become a thing of the past.
PM: When will you start shipping?
LL: We start shipping to wholesale on April 1 (no kidding!). It usually takes a week or two after that for the product to hit retail, so any out-of-stock issues should be resolved by mid April.
A final note: The Stokkebye brand name and family have been an integral part of the STG family for many, many years. Peter Stokkebye and Erik Stokkebye have been fantastic partners, and the passion and knowledge they brought to the industry is something that I think all U.S. pipe smokers have to be thankful for. Taking over the stewardship of the portfolio they helped foster is not something that Lane Limited (or that I personally) take lightly.—Leonard Wortzel, Lane Limited.
Lane Limited’s (and formerly Villiger-Stokkebye International’s) distribution agreement was / is exclusively for the U.S.A., however, it appears some changes are afoot for the Canadian Market as well.
Our British-Columbia, correspondent, and tobacco reviewer, Adam J. Smith sent an email stating:
"Scandinavian Tobacco Group (Canada) is expanding it’s line of luxury tobaccos in Canada. According to the information I received from them they’ve expanded their catalog with the following:
-Colts Pipe Tobacco
-American Mixture: A rich taste of black Cavendish mixed with smooth Burley and Sweet Virginia
-Gold Deluxe: Sweet Virginia mixed with smooth Burley. A unique and Mellow blend.
-Borkum Riff (requires no description)
-Old Port Pipe Tobacco
I thought I saw something about them carrying the W.O. Larson lineup here too, but I can’t find that flier…if I find it I’ll let you know.
They’ve also expanded their cigar line-up, which included Colts, Old Port, White Owl, Cafe Creme and select Villiger and CAO sticks to include:
-Colts Smooth Taste (Dominican / Indonesian filler)
-Rum and Wine
And, more importantly
-CAO Maduro L’anniversaire
-CAO La Traviata Maduro"
Kevin Godbee is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of Pipes Magazine. Kevin started smoking pipes and cigars in 1998 and started an online cigar magazine & community site in 2005. (The site was acquired in 2008 and no longer exists.) He launched PipesMagazine.com in 2009, and in less than three years the site has become the largest trafficked pipe smoking related site, and the #1 Source for Pipes and Pipe Tobacco Information.
In the beginning of his career, Kevin worked in the hobby and specialty toy business for 16 years in sales, marketing, advertising and product development for three different manufacturers, and with his own company.
Over the last 10 years working in the online business, he has become an expert in Internet Marketing and SEO. Kevin is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) through Tobacconist University, a member of Cigar Rights of America and is a "Media Member" of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. In his spare time he sings, plays guitar, cooks, and enjoys all the wonderful places to go and things to do in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, Florida where he lives in his penthouse bachelor pad. Kevin has been smoking pipes and cigars for 14 years.