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KT&G’s Esse exports top 100 billion units

Overseas sales of KT&G Corp.’s flagship Esse cigarettes have surpassed 100 billion units since its maiden export in 2001, Korea’s largest tobacco firm said Monday.

The tally is greater than the country’s yearly cigarette consumption of 90 billion pieces, a company spokesperson noted. Exports reached 21 billion pieces last year alone.

The 17-model ultra slim brand has been reigning as the top seller in the local market since 2003, boasting around a 25 percent stake. It is now sold in some 40 countries, KT&G said.

The Seoul-based company churns out about 40 billion pieces a year at four plants at home and in Russia, Turkey and Iran, making up about 35 percent of the segment worldwide.

With the growing popularity of low-tar, super slim cigarettes, the former state monopoly has been scaling up exports in a bid to compensate for declines in domestic demand amid health concerns. Its major export destinations include the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

KT&G, which claims an 60 percent share in the Korean market, said it first shipped Esse to Italy and Spain in January and aims to tap other Western European countries later.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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