By Franklin Sibindi
GOLD Leaf Tobacco Zimbabwe (GLTZ) has introduced a new look, rebranding its cigarettes to Rudland and George and the company is targeting a 20 percent share of the total cigarette market in the country.
GLTZ had to rebrand from RG cigarette to its full name Rudland and George cigarettes, after it appealed to the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe and suspend an interdict issued by the High Court that stopped the company from trading in its former name.
The company said although the matter is still in the courts, GLTZ is back in business and is ready to serve the tastes of its customers.
GLTZ was taken to court after a competitor claimed that the use of the acronym RG contravened its trademark rights by brand passing and the former maintains the decision to rebrand was to stamp its presence in the cigarette industry.
Addressing clients at a breakfast meeting attended key retailers and wholesalers in Bulawayo Wednesday, GLTZ Country manager, Tanaka Matimbe, said the company had left its legal woes behind, instead was now concentrating on growing business and rebranding its product portfolio.
“The key purpose of the meeting was to update our stakeholders on the development that have been happening in the market, you may be aware that some time last year we stopped trading mainly as a result of a legal trademark case that was raised against us by the competition.
“What we have done now is move away from the legal case and focus on the business. We have introduced our brand with our full name – Rudland and George and that product is back on the market. This meeting today was to bring together all of our stakeholders, inform you of these developments and explain what had been happening,” he said.
Matimbe said GLTZ, is a wholly Zimbabwean owned company that has been operating in South Africa for the past 16 years but has started operating locally and is set to create opportunities for local people.
“We are hoping to manufacture in Zimbabwe in the next 24 months, we have set up a factory and that is our plan to be able to manufacture locally. The southern region comprises about 40 percent of the total market in Zimbabwe and we are looking at about 30- 35 percent market share product coming from this region” he added.
The country manager highlighted GLTZ is engaging the Bulawayo City Council on a corporate social responsibility project as means of giving back to the community.
“Our discussions are in their preliminary stages, we will meet with the council this afternoon to see how we can explore this, as it is something we are keen on doing. We have to agree on what needs to be done, what it is that we are going to do and see how best we can assist the community,” Matimba said.
He added the company would also open its doors for entrepreneurs in the country who are going to participate in the distribution of the product.
“GLTZ will also create more jobs across the production line, that is from farmers to retailers. The farmers project is going to be a long term project as currently we are looking at setting up interested entrepreneurs to be agents and distributors of cigarettes.
“We are in the process of identifying eager, young Zimbabweans so that we give them a distributorship and agent code for them to run their own businesses and distribute cigarettes on our behalf,” the manager said .
Matimba indicated that although the company was targeting the local market it intended to venture out, as the business grew momentum.
“We are going to set up operations in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique initially as distribution entities and Zimbabwe as the main focal point of manufacturing and getting the product across to all those countries hopefully we will get into the to Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) market.”
He said despite the economy taking a slump, GLTZ had managed to make it through as the second best cigarette manufacturer in the country.
“The business is good although we are working in a tough environment, as the liquidity crunch which is in the market is affecting our consumers and subsequently affecting us. The poor economic environment affects consumer spending as cigarettes are a luxury. People would rather spend money on a loaf of bread rather than a pack of cigarettes,” Matimba stated.