Currently owned and marketed by the Gallaher Group Benson & Hedges was founded in 1873 by Richard Benson and William Hedges in London. The business was formed to supply cigarettes to Albert Edward who at the time was Prince of Wales. Interestingly their storefront was located close to Philip Morris's original store.
The partners where successful, and in the early 1900s started to market their product in the United States and Canada.Of particular honor was that the company was issued a Royal Warrant in 1878 to supply their product to the Royal Family.
With increasing sales the US arm of Benson & Hedges became independent in 1928. This situation remained until 1958 when Philip Morris purchased the US operations of the company, followed with the 1960 acquistion of Canadian operations.
During this period, Benson & Hedges (UK) was purchased by Gallaher Group (at the time Gallaher Limited). The brand was further fragmented when the overseas arm Benson & Hedges (Overseas) was acquired by British American Tobacco. This fragmentation has allowed Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Gallaher to focus on their market territories to increase shareholder value.
Due to limited demand in the royal family, Benson & Hedges's Royal Warrant was revoked in 1999. The removal of the crest was greeted positively by anti-smoking groups as a step of reducing cigarettes claim as a legitimate product.
Benson & Hedges (UK) also manufacture and sell the popular Hamlet cigar in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The brand has extensive history in sponsorship events, supporting Australian cricket throughout the 1980s until legislation banned tobacco advertising withing Australia. Like many tobacco companies, Benson & Hedges was heavily involved in Formula 1 motorsport. Between 1996 and 2005 the brand sponsored the Irish Jordan Grand Prix team.
Benson & Hedges responded creatively to restrictions on tobacco advertisingin the United Kingdom by using increasingly abstract images to attract smokers to the brand. Their success allowed the brand to continue to appeal to the minds of smokers in the UK while many other brands where reducing their marketing drives.
The brand is the market leader in Ireland and is prominent in the United Kingdon both in its silver and gold varieties.