Even for those who do not normally buy rolling papers, the Zig-Zag brand is fairly well known. Along with papers from Bugler and Top, Zig-Zags are most often seen even at stores that do not specialize in tobacco products, such as convenience stores. Where does this popularity come from? Are Zig-Zag papers really superior to others?
Part of the popularity of Zig-Zags comes from their innovative method of packaging their rolling papers. They were the first (in 1894) to invent the method of interleaving the rolling papers in the package — in other words, hooking the folded end of one rolling paper onto the folded end of the next in the package, making the papers easy to remove from the package. Although this didn't present a huge advantage in terms of ease of use, innovation has a way of promoting popularity in and of itself.
Zig-Zag also relies on shrewd branding to promote a classic, old-style image. They use the image of a 19th century French soldier (or Zouave) as their logo, to reflect the story that such a soldier invented the process of rolling cigarettes during that time period. The story is a bit doubtful, since there are records of Spanish soldiers trading rolling papers in North America for cotton and other goods as early as the 18th century, and other stories of rolling papers being used as early as the 16th century.
Despite their image, the company itself is (relatively speaking) a newcomer. Pay-Pay and RizLa+ rolling papers are generally agreed to have been the first rolling paper companies, the first being formed in 1703 and the second in 1736 (though the founders, the Lacroix family, were producing papers well before the company was officially formed).
Zig-Zag papers are made from wood pulp and flax, and gummed with natural gum Arabic (also known as gum acacia). They come in all the standard sizes, from single-wide to double-wide, and both standard and king-size lengths. The papers are relatively inexpensive, but many experienced smokers agree that they are good for the purpose. Beginning smokers will probably find them too thin to be easily rolled, but this thinness also helps them to burn more slowly than thicker papers. Those are who are just beginning to learn to roll cigarettes should probably start with a thicker (or "free-burning") paper.