Tobacco is a crop that must be planted and grown every year. When the tobacco plant is ready to be harvested, the leaves are cut either by hand or by a specific machine. The leaves are then cured to extract the moisture and enhance the overall flavor. There are two types of curing: flue-curing and air-curing. Air-curing requires two months, while flue-curing only takes approximately a week. The cured tobacco leaves are then cleaned and sent to processing plants where the stems are taken off during the threshing process. The tobacco leaves are then dried out again, packaged into boxes or vats, and aged. The aging process can take up to two years.
Consumer purchasing activity and consumer awareness of the negative health connotations involved with tobacco products are what drive the demand in the tobacco products industry. Large tobacco companies possess advantages in manufacturing, and are able to provide a broad selection of products to consumers. Smaller companies compete by offering product with extensive discounts, engaging in creative branding and packaging, and offering specialty tobacco product niches, like additive-free cigarettes. Independent companies focus on creating highly efficient marketing strategies to promote their product in order to generate a profit.