Inter-Continental Trading USA: Investing in Growth


Inter-Continental Trading USA’s Shargio Patel shares his strategies for the future.


Shargio Patel Inter-Continental Trading Company

Inter-Continental Trading was among the many manufacturers who enjoyed a banner year at the 2017 Tobacco Plus Expo in January, where founder and president Shargio Patel told Tobacco Business that business has been booming for his Mount Prospect, Illinois-based company, which manufactures and distributes a wide range of pipe tobacco, filtered cigars and cigarette tubes and accessories.

Founded in 2004, the company has been expanding on its additive- and preservative-free offerings, playing into a trend toward natural products. “While the filtered cigar segment continues to perform well,” says Patel, “there is a missed opportunity with higher-margin, premium brands. When it comes to all-natural products, consumers are willing to spend a little extra, and Au Naturallé Filtered Cigars offer retailers a better return on those few inches of space.”

Recently, Tobacco Business connected with Patel to hear more about what’s new with Inter-Continental Trading USA, and what his plans are for the company’s future. Excerpts from that conversation follow.

When we spoke at TPE 2017, you mentioned doing a lot of business at the show. Was that across categories or are some performing particularly well for you?

All of our lines—pipe tobacco, filtered cigars and tubes—exceeded our expectations at the 2017 Tobacco Plus Expo. The OHM line of pipe tobacco has a large following, so our success at the show was attributed to both our existing clients and new customers getting more and more requests.


You introduced Au Naturallé cigars in 2016. What prompted you to launch a new cigar and pipe tobacco line?

With the demand for additive-free products continuing to grow, the Au Naturallé line fills a niche in the premium pipe tobacco and filtered cigar segments. On the business side, it also offers retailers the opportunity of higher margins and a brand that gets away from the “me-too” products prevalent in the marketplace. It’s been shown time and time again that consumers are willing to pay a little more for a product perceived as a higher quality.


What distinguishes it from OHM, 752 and the rest of the offerings currently in the marketplace? What are your plans for its future?

Au Naturallé completes our “Good, Better, Best” spectrum of product offerings. Where 752 fills the economy role and OHM has always been our flagship brand, Au Naturallé is the final piece that gives our customers a choice along all price points. There aren’t any concrete plans in the works, but I believe Au Naturallé would allow us an opportunity for more exotic blends.


Your 752 brand of pipe tobacco and cigars is targeted at value-conscious smokers. How price-conscious are cigarette and cigar smokers?

Regardless of the market segment, there will always be consumers looking for a high-quality, value product and smokers aren’t any different. Personally, I believe smokers are quality-driven first, then [price-driven]. That’s how we approached 752—the best blends at an affordable price.


What are your goals for this brand going forward? How do you distinguish it from competing brands?

We obviously want to see 752 grow and achieve the same success as OHM, so we are educating our client base and new customers on the line’s benefits. We differentiate 752 with dynamic packaging and marketing identity, whereas typical generic products don’t really stand out.

What are your plans for the remainder of 2017? Do you have any new product launches or promotional campaigns planned?

On the promotional side and new product launches, we are standing pat for the time being. We are waiting to see how the FDA regulations shake out and the effect they will have on the industry.



– Story by Jennifer Gelfand

This story first appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine.



See OHM Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars from Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. at NACS!


Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc.’s Au Naturall’e premium additive and preservative-free filtered cigars offer higher margins.


CHICAGO – Premium products may comprise only a fraction of the little cigar market, but profit margins can be 8-10 times greater than that of value brands. With the proper mix between higher priced and economy-level products, retailers can maximize filtered cigar category profits without increasing rack space.

OHM Au Naturall’e additive and preservative-free filtered cigars from Inter-Continental Trading USA offer c-stores a serious boost to sagging tobacco margins.

“While the filtered cigar segment continues to perform well,” said Shargio Patel, President of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., “there is a missed opportunity with higher-margin, premium brands. When it comes to all- natural products, consumers are willing to spend a little extra, and Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars offer retailers a better return on those few inches of space.”

Made in the USA, and available in four flavors—Red, (full-flavor), Gold, (mild), Perique, (spicy Louisiana Perique blend), and Menthol—Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars are ideal for retailers looking for a premium, yet accessible line that meets the growing trend for natural products. Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars are made from only the highest-quality, preservative and additive-free Golden Virginia tobacco blends.



10/19/2016



See Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars from Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. at NACS!


Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc.’s Au Naturall’e filtered cigars offer higher margins.


CHICAGO – Premium products may comprise only a fraction of the little cigar market, but profit margins can be 8-10 times greater than that of value brands. With the proper mix between higher priced and economy-level products, retailers can maximize filtered cigar category profits without increasing rack space.

OHM Au Naturall’e additive and preservative-free filtered cigars from Inter- Continental Trading USA offer c-stores a serious boost to sagging tobacco margins.

“While the filtered cigar segment continues to perform well,” said Shargio Patel, President of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., “there is a missed opportunity with higher-margin, premium brands. When it comes to all- natural products, consumers are willing to spend a little extra, and Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars offer retailers a better return on those few inches of space."

Made in the USA, and available in four flavors—Red, (full-flavor), Gold, (mild), Perique, (spicy Louisiana Perique blend), and Menthol—Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars are ideal for retailers looking for a premium, yet accessible line that meets the growing trend for natural products. Au Naturall’e Filtered Cigars are made from only the highest-quality, preservative and additive-free Golden Virginia tobacco blends.



09/11/2016



Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. Announces Golden Ticket Promotion


OHM Pipe Tobacco customers have a chance to win $250 in July.


CHICAGO – Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. has launched a Golden Ticket promotion in which OHM Pipe Tobacco customers have a chance to win $250.

“Above all, we value our repeat customers,” said Shargio Patel, President of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., “and for that reason, we’ve launched a fun promotion to thank them for choosing our products.”

During the month of July, 30 specially marked bags of OHM 16oz-size Pipe Tobacco will contain a Golden Ticket worth $250. Over 1000 more packages will contain second prize coupons customers can use on their next purchase.

Along with a Loyalty Rewards Point Program and a recent peel-off couponing campaign, the Golden Ticket promotion is part of a long-term effort by Inter-Continental Trading USA of focusing on maintaining and growing the OHM brand customer base.

For more information on the Golden Ticket promotion or to see the rules, terms and conditions, please visit ictusainc.com/goldenticket.



06/29/2016



Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. Announces Loyalty Points Program


OHM, Au Naturall’e, 752 Pipe Tobacco and Shargio Tube customers can redeem points for swag.


CHICAGO – Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. has launched a new Loyalty Points Program in which customers can collect and redeem points for branded merchandise. Point values—located next to the UPC label-- can be found on each bag of OHM, Au Naturall’e and 752 Pipe Tobacco, 752 Filtered Cigars, as well as Shargio Tubes.

“Repeat customers are the heart of our business,” said Shargio Patel, President of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., “and for that reason, we’ve developed a fun program to thank them for that loyalty.”

After collecting a sufficient amount of points, customers can log on to www.ictusainc.com and click the “Rewards” tab or ICT Loyalty Points Program banner. From there, they will be directed to a page showing the available merchandise, as well as 3 easy steps to redeem their points. The Loyalty Points Program is the start of more consumer-focused roll-outs planned for ICT brands, and coincides with a website re-design. OHM, Au Naturall’e and 752 Pipe Tobacco from Inter- Continental Trading USA are made from only the finest American-grown tobacco blends.



05/02/2016



Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. Expands 1oz OHM Pipe Tobacco Options for C-stores


Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., introduces a 1oz OHM Countertop Display option designed specifically for the convenience store channel.


CHICAGO – After successfully rolling out groceries, and now seeing solid sales increases in foodservice offerings, C-stores are looking to further capture customers by adding more tobacco categories to the product mix. After closely monitoring these trends, Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. is now offering a 1oz OHM Pipe Tobacco point-of- purchase solution.

“With attractive profit margins and more varieties,” said Shargio Patel, President of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., “C-stores and chains are realizing the store-traffic value and higher margins in other tobacco products. For that reason, we’ve designed a display solution around our 1oz OHM bag size to make it easier for retailers to enter the market. The 1oz OHM Countertop Display is ideal as a low-cost entry-way into pipe tobacco products, as a way to capture impulse buys, or to build on existing tobacco sales.”

The 1oz OHM Pipe Tobacco Countertop Display comes preloaded with 15 bags—5 bags each of Red, Blue and Mint—in an attractive, yet space-saving 3-tier configuration. The 5” x 5” footprint takes up minimal counter space, while the 24” height commands attention. Convenient 144ct refill cases make reloading a snap. OHM Pipe Tobacco from Inter-Continental Trading USA is made from only the finest American-grown tobacco blends.



04/14/2016



Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. Introduces OHM Au Naturall'e All-Natural Pipe Tobacco


Answering the demand for premium products, Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc.'s new offering uses only natural, preservative and additive-free Golden Virginia tobacco.


CHICAGO – Almost 40% of Americans consume products labeled “all-natural” or having “natural ingredients.” Taking that cue and applying it to the $80 billion tobacco market, Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc. announces the release of Au Naturall'e Pipe Tobacco, an extension of the company's flagship OHM pipe tobacco line.

“While certain categories remain flat, sales of natural products have steadily increased for the past 10 years,” said Shargio Patel, President of Inter-Continental Trading USA Inc., “and Au Naturall’e tobacco meets both the demand for all-natural products and premium tobacco blends.”

Au Naturall’e is a specially blended, additive and preservative-free Golden Virginia tobacco, and contains an exclusive 2-way humidity control pouch in each mason jar-look bag for longer-lasting freshness.

Au Naturall'e Pipe Tobacco is available in three varieties: Red (full flavor), Gold (mild), and Menthol, in both 1oz and 6oz re-sealable bags.



03/11/2016

Product Spotlight:
Shargio Cigarette Tubes
Inter-Continental Trading USA, Inc. manufactures the one key-ingredient needed to make the perfect roll-your-own cigarette: the Shargio Cigarette Tube. Shargio King size and 100mm tubes are proudly manufactured in the USA to exact industry standards using only the finest cigarette paper and filters -- making them the top American made brand on the market. King size 200ct and 250ct tubes are available in Red, Blue and Green. Shargio 100mm tubes are available in Red, Blue and Green, and packaged 250 count sealed cartons.

Customer
TESTIMONIALS

“I am always impressed with the customer service provided by ICT. Whenever I suggest or recommend something, they are always quick to accommodate. They respond to questions immediately and are very quick to resolve any issues. I have had the pleasure of working with many different departments. Shargio is a great person with a mind for business. Malika is always so friendly when working with me on invoices. Darrell is great in putting through my orders and staying on top of the new brands and promotions, (I love his colorful emails). Barb is the face on the street and she represents ITC with professionalism and kindness. Everyone in the company represents what a manufacturer should be.”

- Angela Steinke, Tobacco Buyer Topicz, OH
“Just wanted to let you know, it’s great having Inter-Continental Trading in our corner supplying us with their line of tobacco products and accessories. The growth and success of my business has depended on the advice of what products to carry by their highly knowledgeable and personable staff. At Tobacco Express Depot, we have run the gamut from ordering OHM tobacco, 752 tobacco, Shargio filtered cigars and tubes, and yet still look forward to ICT developing new and exciting products! I truly believe that Inter-Continental Trading has me and my team in their best interest when it comes to supplying me the right product, at the right price. Way to go Inter-Continental!”

- Bob Fuller, President Tobacco Express Depot, FL
“Thank you for all that you guys do for us. Your customer service is top notch and Syed always goes above and beyond to help! When we started with ICT, we carried only one size of OHM tobacco. Now we carry almost the entire line! Since then we added the Shargio tubes and have great success with them as well. We look forward to many more years of success and growth together.”

- Louis Valentine Wigley & Culp, MS
“Barb has been coming to our store regularly for 2 years. And finally, in October of 2015, I decided to become a partner with ICT brands. At first, it was OHM tobacco in one size, but has quickly grown to the full OHM line, 752, Shargio tubes and now the new Au Naturall’e. We also decided to have some fun around the holidays with an ICT Christmas tree! I’m happy to say I have a great partnership with ICT!”

- Dawn Miller Smoking Joe’s Discount Tobacco, OH
“I have been working with Inter-Continental Trading for over 5 years now and I wanted to take a moment to write and say how happy we are with our experience. We currently carry OHM Tobacco, along with the Shargio tubes in over 13 of our stores and it has become one of our best sellers. As a buyer for Russell Oil, I work with many different suppliers and the professionalism of your staff has made my job a little easier. Keep up the good work!”

- Terry Stevens, Buyer Russell Oil Company, IL
“I have sold OHM tobacco for several years now and have always been impressed with this product. And with the help of ICT rep Emily Taylor, have learned even more about tobacco! I am looking forward to working with Emily and adding even more of the Inter-Continental line.”

- Kelly Tuma, Buyer Tobacco Express, Pinson AL
“I have carried OHM tobacco for over 4 years, and enjoy a wonderful relationship with both Inter-Continental Trading and the local rep. The combination of excellent products and the best customer service has been a recipe for great success!”

- Dawn Miller, Manager Tobacco Express, Trussville AL

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