Furthest Right

How Commerce Defeats Itself

Many of you know me as an unabashed fan of certain English tobaccos but also the “rougher” blends like those from Cornell and Diehl, who tend to make natural leaf blends that will keep you on your toes.

Their best work comes when they showcase classic American Burleys for their strength and flavor like steam roasted nuts. However, they are “branching out,” something the MBAs love. Their latest, Sun Bear, shows us how businesses defeat themselves with cleverness:

A blend of fine red and bright Virginias balanced by Basma leaf from 2014 and Izmir Orientals from 2013, Sun Bear commends itself with subtle notes of South Carolina garden-grown honey from the personal beehives of Jeremy Reeves, head blender of Cornell & Diehl.

The natural honey complements the subtle drizzling of silver tequila and Elderflower for a natural, refined tasting tobacco with an underlying, swashbuckling boldness. Sun Bear is a unique experience for the connoisseur who appreciates a dance of flavor components dominated by quality Virginias.

Even more glowing praise comes from Smoking Pipes:

Sun Bear showcases select varietals by highlighting their inherent characters with a range of unique and nuanced casings. South Carolina garden-grown honey — harvested from the personal beehives of C&D’s head blender, Jeremy Reeves — combines with a whisper of silver tequila and elderflower to augment the fruity and floral notes of the choice Orientals and Virginias. The result is a natural, refined tobacco with a bright, refreshing character and a creamy, rounded finish — the perfect complement to these sweltering summer days.

However, let us boil this one down. The main ingredient is bright Virginia, which like white Burley, is one of the cheapest ingredients you can find; it requires little time to cure and is high in sugar and low in nicotine. Most blenders seek to use a lot of white Burley and bright Virginia in their blend because it reduces their per-ounce cost, enabling them to charge a higher price for lower ingredients.

If we had to design an archetype of the successful modern business, it would be Coca-Cola, who took a similar approach. They added sugar, color, and flavoring to water and made it a product that sells for many times its ingredient cost; adding lots of advertising to the general public helped, too.

We could also look at the burgers from a successful fast-food chain that during its peak of MBA-rule during the 1990s consisted mostly of soy protein, a nice cheap ingredient, with some pulverized cow for flavoring. Cheap ingredients + nifty marketing = products.

Now let us look at Sun Bear. Percentages by weight of each ingredient are not given, but most likely, favors the bright Virginias. Izmir and bright Virginia sell for $1.70 an ounce in bulk; red Virginia is around $2 per ounce. Add some flavorings and you have inexpensive ingredients sold at a premium ($5.74 per ounce).

MBAs reflect the shopkeeper mentality: get in as many warm bodies as possible, sell them the cheapest thing possible at the highest possible price, and use advertising, flavoring, coloring, and novelty to disguise this fact.

Commerce defeats itself through this method because over time, it ceases to deliver value, and while consumers cannot articulate this fact, they act according to it, and wander on to somewhere else. The MBAs in the meantime have been promoted and moved on to new businesses to parasitize.

In this way, old brands destroy themselves, and so do nations, as well. Instead of offering what they originally did, they open up the franchise to lesser people of their own, foreigners, and international business, and in doing so lose their vitality and uniqueness.

As far as Cornell and Diehl goes, do yourself a favor and stick to the Old Joe Krantz. It offers a distinctive vision of American blends and Cornell and Diehl products, rough on the outside and smoothly sweet and warm within.

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