Joseph the cigar man
Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
Joseph Adduci shows off his exquisite box of Jamaican cigars. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
If you've ever seen a tall, cool cat on the social circuit either puffing a cigar or handing them out, more than likely it's Joseph Adduci. For the chief executive officer of Adduci Jamaican Cigars, it's all about marketing.
"My life is my job. Even when I go to a social event, it's me, but I'm doing my job. It's not like I say, 'Oh my God, I have to go to work'. I love it," he said. Adduci has immersed himself in Jamaican culture since he first set foot here 18 years ago. While Outlook spoke to the amicable American at the Spanish Court Hotel recently, the "Hey, Mr Adduci" and "Joe's here" comments were said with regularity by staff and guests.
But how did he get into the cigar business? Turns out Connecticut (his home state) is cigar country so this was no chance meeting.
"Cigars have always been a passion of mine. As a young boy, I grew tobacco and they (cigar companies) would ask us (himself and his friends) to help them wrap cigars," he revealed. "The cigar is a very affluent product. It transcends all markets globally and it seems to be going up."
He cited that in 2009, approximately 15 billion cigars were sold worldwide, an increase of about a billion from 2008.
Adduci explained that he comes from an entrepreneurial background and came to Jamaica with the same mindset, operating a few businesses in Negril. He soon started learning about Jamaica's rich tobacco heritage.
"Remember the word 'tobacco' is from the Indians, who first came to Jamaica," he pointed out. He said that Jamaica's climate and soil are perfect for growing tobacco.
"It's not so much the temperature, it's the humidity. Tobacco is a weed, so it will grow anywhere, even in sand. But the richer the soil, the better the product," he explained. So about 10 years ago, he decided to mix business with pleasure. He started by giving out tobacco seeds to farmers and then buying whatever they produced. The tedious process of identifying idle land and finding investment would come next. Gradually, the company took shape.
The entire operation is Jamaican to the bone. The materials for the binder, filler and wrapper are all sourced here. The wood for the cigar boxes comes from Portland; the boxes are manufactured in Ocho Rios; the crop comes from Clarendon; he has offices in Negril and the Corporate Area; and the factory is in south St Andrew. But don't be fooled by the shades and jacket. This CEO doesn't hide in the office; he is hands-on.
"I oversee every aspect, from the growing, manufacturing; I design the packages," he said. All boxes are inspected, hand signed, dated, and numbered by him. He said the main target market is the United States, along with the European Union, China and India.
He told Outlook that there are 11 different styles (referring to the size of the cigars), but there are flavoured cigars, including some of Jamaica's finest beers. Those cigars have a bit of the brews in their ingredients. Three of the special 'blends' coming up are the Goldeneye, Blackwell Rum and the Bounty Killer. He gushed about the great opportunity the island had to potentially get to the top of the tobacco pile.
"We're going back to basics. We're talking about agro-manufacturing a local product, the export of brand Jamaica, and that leads to foreign exchange," he reasoned. He pointed out that Jamaica is in the top five countries in terms of reputation, arguing that Brand Jamaica is very popular, as all 'products', from tourism to athletics, are of such high quality.
Upliftment of the Jamaican worker
"Jamaica has the potential to take a market share from the rest of the world right now. Imagine what can happen when we're really ready!"
He stressed, though, that the main goal of Adduci Jamaican Cigars is the upliftment of the Jamaican worker. The company will be taking over another factory in June, a move he hopes will provide employment for an additional 300 persons.
The hope is that over the next five years, the complement of staff will come to 10,000. He would also like to see tobacco manufactured in all 14 parishes. All the while, the emphasis will be on training and development of the workers.
At present, Adduci produces under a million cigars a year, which, if his islandwide plan comes to fruition, could see Jamaica producing by his math up to 100 million cigars a year, trying to rival competitors such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Honduras. He is definitely in for the long haul.
"Remember, my initials are J.A. I feel like I should have been born here," he laughed, cigar in hand.