According to market share figures, Bristol based British multinational Imperial Tobacco Group plc is the world’s fourth-largest cigarette company after Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco. Producing more than 320 billion cigarettes annually in its 51 factories across the globe and selling its products in more than 160 countries worldwide, the Imperial Tobacco Group is also notably the world’s largest producer of cigars, fine-cut tobacco and tobacco papers.
The foundation of this particular company in 1901 was actually a decision by a group of British tobacco manufacturers who attempted to find strength in numbers and through uniting and combining their powers. The need for such a consortium was made apparent when James Buchanan Duke of the American Tobacco Company tried to take over the British tobacco industry. The Imperial Tobacco Company was the response to such threats to ensure they would not happen again. Since its foundation and up until 1968, tobacco actually dominated the company’s product line, accounting for 90 percent of its profits. In the early 1970s the company decided to diversify its offering and image and therefore the word “tobacco” was removed from the corporate name in 1973 as a vocal and tangible method to reflect the changes in the company’s direction.
In 1981, the company assumed the name Imperial Group and it re-registered as a public limited company (plc). In the ten years between 1986 and 1996 the Imperial Group was in fact a subsidiary of Hanson Trust PLC, which was a diversified manufacturer. When in 1996 Hanson decided to break up its businesses, Imperial became a separate entity and then assumed the name Imperial Tobacco Group, PLC. The next milestone in its history was in 2007 when the Imperial Tobacco Group plc acquired one of the largest tobacco companies in the U.S., namely Commonwealth Brands, Inc., through which it successfully entered the American market.
The company owns, manufactures and promotes a great number and variety of cigarette brands worldwide, the most recognized of which are: Ducados, Brandon’s, Carlton, Crowns, Davidoff, Embassy, Excellence, Fortuna, Gauloises, Gitanes, John Player & Sons, John Player Special, Lambert & Butler, Mark Fernyhough, Moon, Parker & Simpson, Peter Jackson, Prima, R1, Regal, Richmond, Rodeo, Route 66, Royale, Superkings and West.
Moreover, it has also undertaken the production of Japan Tobacco’s products in Australia, including the famous brands of Camel, More, and Mild Seven. Additionally, Imperial produces the Peter Stuyvesant brand of cigarettes in collaboration with British American Tobacco. Another strong product for Imperial is the Montecristo; Golden Virginia, which is the largest selling hand rolling tobacco in the world. Finally, Imperial manufactures Drum, which is the second largest selling fine cut tobacco in the world as well as Rizla, the best selling rolling paper in the world.