Zippo was founded in Bradford, Pennsylvania in 1932 when George G. Blaisdell decided to create a lighter that would look good and be easy to use. He fashioned a Zippo lighter and the rest is history. Here, Mark Paup, president and chief executive officer of Zippo Manufacturing Company and W.R. Case Cutlery, explains the brand’s rich history and why the company is proud to have its global headquarters based in northwest Pennsylvania.
Zippo has sold over 550 million lighters since the company was founded 86 years ago. What do you credit for the company’s longevity?
Zippo inventor and founder, George G. Blaisdell, said: “Build your product with integrity, stand behind it 100% and success will follow.” Zippo is still a family owned company, now led by Blaisdell’s grandson George B. Duke, and remains committed to the founder’s ideals. The Zippo windproof lighter became a global icon after WWII and has only increased in popularity around the world.
We make a very good, guaranteed for life, windproof pocket lighter. But where we really excel is at decorating the surface of the lighter. Our engineering team continues to innovate new design methods, like our 360° MultiCut process which can engrave continuously around the sides of the lighter, and our color imaging and photo imaging processes which can replicate any image in vivid detail on the surface of the lighter.
What do you believe makes the Zippo brand so special?
Zippo is a small company that has earned global recognition as not simply a lighter manufacturer, but as a lifestyle brand. Zippo is synonymous with coolness, individuality and Americana. Zippo lighters have been seen in more than 2,000 films in the last eight decades. Because of this cache, the Zippo brand has been able to diversify into new products, such as our range of outdoor gear, which includes our popular refillable hand warmers and our new rechargeable hand warmers.
Today, the Zippo name is recognized around the world. In order to achieve such global manufacturing success, the company has invested heavily in its people and operations. Please provide us with a snapshot of your workforce, production and manufacturing facilities.
Zippo products are sold in 180 countries, and Zippo employs more than 600 individuals. We have 520 people in our Bradford-based corporate office and manufacturing facilities. Zippo also has wholly-owned subsidiaries in China, UK, France and Germany. This allows us to control our own distribution across Asia and Europe.
All of our lighter manufacturing is in Bradford, and our facilities are currently capable of producing more than 70,000 lighters a day and a range of 15 million to 18 million each year. Zippo lighter fluid and butane are also bottled in Bradford.
In your own words, please explain what “Made in PA” means to Zippo manufacturing.
“Bradford, PA – Made in U.S.A.” is stamped on the bottom of every Zippo lighter for a good reason — Zippo is committed to making each and every Zippo lighter right here. It is a symbol of our commitment to our community, our employees and our consumers.
The fact that each lighter is made in Bradford is extremely important to our consumers, Innovation especially internationally, as Zippo lighters cost more overseas because of the associated duties, shipping costs, etc. People are willing to pay the premium for genuine Zippo products — especially in China. For this, and so many other reasons, Zippo ownership will not consider making the lighter anywhere else. It is a core part of the brand’s identity. Without it, we lose our soul.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing Zippo today?
We see both opportunity and challenge in today’s ever changing e-commerce landscape. Online shoppers want things fast and customized. It’s required us to really focus on speed to market and production of culturally relevant designs for every market we serve.
And because we have such strong brand recognition, we continue to see opportunity to diversify our product lines. Our research indicates the Zippo brand makes sense to consumers in a number of different lifestyle areas, and we continue to release new Zippo-quality products to meet those demands.
What’s next for Zippo?
Incredible new lighter designs and reliable new products in our expanding outdoor product and global lifestyle offerings, and most importantly, remaining true to the brand’s heritage as we head into a future full of growth and opportunity.