Prepare yourself, because this is going to be quite an article! Sit down, grab a tin of your favorite snus and a beverage, and I'll tell you about my recent trip to Sweden. To be honest, i've been looking forward to this day for a while. It's not every day that I get the opportunity to go to Sweden and visit with the snusmakers themselves, the very people who helped me quit smoking, returning my life to me that cigarettes had planned to remove. Living in Arkansas, naturally my method of transport to Sweden was going to be via plane. Now, a little background on me and planes. I don't fly. If I have to go to California (23+ hour drive) or anywhere else in the US - you'll find me in a car. Why? Scared of planes. Call it what you want, you can even call it by it's clinical names - aerophobia, aviatophobia, aviophobia, or even pteromechanophobia. (I learned these names a few days ago, so apparently other people share my problem.) But, since I can't drive to Sweden, I hopped on a plane at 6:30 AM and started my day of long flights. Little Rock, AR to Newark, NJ to Copenhagen to Goteborg. And the plane flight wasn't too bad, luckily on the first one I was sitting next to an off duty pilot who explained every little bump along the way, so it wasn't actually too bad.
But, I know my fear of flying probably isn't what you wanted to read about, but instead my trip to Sweden itself. Coming to Sweden was something I had always wanted to do. Since quitting smoking with snus a little over a year ago and developing the immense love for snus that I have today, it was something that I had been wanting to do for quite some time. Not just to see the European women I have heard so much about, but to see how snus was made, visit the people in the business, and actually learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. I was fortunate to be accompanied by a friend, Anthony, who runs DrSnus.com, and we were both excited for the opportunity we enjoyed to be here. Also, you can check out the full Photo Album here, at our Photo Bucket account and see all the pics from Sweden!
Before I get too much into the snus side of the trip, I do want to talk about Sweden and the "Swedish Experience". I would say it's "...like a whole other country...", which it is, but throw everything you thought you knew out about culture and life, because Sweden really has living down to an art, it truly is a wonderful place. There's so much I could say here about the experiences I have enjoyed the past week in Sweden. The beautiful city streets, the friendly people, and the general feeling you get when in Sweden is completely different from anything I've enjoyed anywhere else. It was truly an excellent way to enjoy the "Swedish Experience", by actually going there and seeing what it's all about! One of several things that I would like to note is that snus use is actually a thing of pride here, it's not something that you hide, it's very common! I especially noticed this when dining. People would leave their snus cans up on the table, sometimes two or more, and enjoy snus use without hiding it. They were very open about it, and I found that to be quite refreshing.
Quite possibly one of my favorite parts of this whole trip was my big "moment". This moment is something I was looking for since the planning phases of coming to Sweden. If you follow Larry over at SnusCENTRAL, he took the same trip as myself and Dr. Snus last year, and his big moment was a "kiss the ground" moment after exiting the plane. My moment? Seeing my first snus fridge in a store and being able to just buy a can. I can't explain how amazing that felt to me. And then every subsequent store I went into, a snus fridge. Here and there I'd see a snus vending machine, I mean they were everywhere. It was great. Some had even more shelf space than cigarettes. It was a wonderful moment for me, and has really fueled my dream to see snus as wide spread in the US someday.
The main purpose of our visit was to meet with the folks at Swedish Match. Dr. Snus and i are both avid Swedish Match fans and snus users (him with Roda Lacket, myself with General White Portion), so this was an excellent opportunity for us - not just to meet the people who in essence have saved our lives, but to learn more about the development and all aspects surrounding snus in Sweden, and the sale of snus throughout the world. Our trip started out with a visit to the Swedish Match factory in Göteborg. We were greeted by two guys who have been very much involved in the snus world (especially online), Markus Ersmark and Joakim Blom. Along with a fellow Swedish Match coworker who spent a few days with us and a very pleasant tour guide, we got to check out the factory in Göteborg and learn more about the production and distribution of snus. Though photography isn't allowed in the Swedish Match factory, I can tell you what I observed. We also were privy to information about new Swedish Match products that, though I can't talk about, are going to be quite awesome (one of which is something I've been waiting for for quite some time), so look for that info to come soon. Until then, be patient. I assure you the wait is worth it!
I won't go too much into the production of snus. If you want to know details about how snus is made, check out our Snus FAQ at Snubie.com, and if you want to check out any videos about the snus factory inside (what little Swedish Match released to preserve the secrets of how they make snus), you can check out this video on YouTube from Swedish Match that shows some of the inner workings of the factory and this video, as well that shows some of the machinery working. What I do want to talk about regarding my experience in the Swedish Match factories is what was relevant to me about it. One of the things that I don't like about Camel "SNUS" (aside from the fact that it is complete garbage) is that I have no idea what is going into my mouth.
After observing the production of Swedish Snus by Swedish Match, I can officially say that I have never felt so comfortable about using a product as I do snus by Swedish Match. From the selection of the tobacco, to the quality control that is used in the production of snus, to the rigorous testing to ensure that their snus is the safest snus on the market - everything they do to produce snus is top notch. They truly set the standard when it comes to snus, and I have no worries when I put a General snus into the lip about anything whatsoever bad happening to me. I was suprised to see how much snus is thrown away if it doesn't meet the standards that Swedish Match has in place. We're talking portion after portion, probably hundreds to thousands a day. Everyone there is completely focused on quality - so much so that there are hundreds of charts and standards posted every inch of the Swedish Match factories so that it is clearly communicated to the employees what is expected of them. Their product truly is the safest and most quality snus product on the market - and I can say that without any doubt in my mind. There are so many checks and rechecks before snus is released to the customer that I have no doubts or fears about using a Swedish Match product.
After a tour of the factory in Göteborg, we had the opportunity to meet with Conny Andersson from Swedish Match who is, as I'd like to call him, "The Tobacco Guru", and the man behind such amazing releases as Kardus. We had the opportunity to speak with him about the flavors of snus, and not just what you can tell, but the subtle things that you can't pick out as easily that tie together to make every Swedish Match snus taste different, and give them a truly advanced flavor profile that isn't matched anywhere else in the world. What was my favorite part of this little meeting? Well, we got to make our own snus! Conny comes from a Culinary Arts background, much like myself, so it was a thrill to talk to him about the flavors that all tie together to give Swedish Match snus such an amazing flavor. We were presented with a table full of flavors, fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, and a large batch of Ettan los (which, if you try to make your own snus, is an excellent base to work with). I made a few mixes, Ginger Lime with a hint of Violet, Blueberry Mint, and a crazy mixture of Habanero & Garlic (which was absolutely quite tasty). Later on that night over dinner, Conny mixed me up a fabulous drink with blueberry, mint, and a few other things in it that was quite delicious. Hey, Swedish Match - if you release Blueberry Mint, don't forget the mastermind that put it together. Also, we heard a little intel on Kardus 2010, and I assure you this - it's going to rock your socks off.
The next day, we had the opportunity to tour Swedish Match's Kungälv factory, which was quite large and worked with the same efficiency and quality as the factory in Göteborg. It was amazing to see the attention to detail that went into the production of snus, but also finally seeing how the star formation is formed. I won't reveal too many details, but I would like to say that it was really interesting how it happens. This is a point of pride for Swedish Match, if the star pattern isn't put together the correct way, or doesn't look right - the can is quickly discarded into the trash to ensure that customers are getting exactly what Swedish Match wants them to have - a quality snus product. This factory also had the largest tobacco warehouse I'd ever seen in my life, think Raiders of the Lost Ark, but all those boxes contained tobacco. The smell of the tobacco warehouse and the smell of the factory was intoxicating, it was really a mesmerizing experience.
Next, we got to meet up with Bengt Börjesson, who does the tobacco purchasing for Swedish Match, and it really goes to show you what quality goes into their snus. They don't just buy tobacco. Every year, they visually inspect the tobacco crop by going to the places they purchase tobacco from to ensure that it is going to meet the standards set forth by Swedish Match. If it isn't, they don't buy it. It's as simple as that. And the quality of the stuff they buy is top notch, we had the opportunity to see some that was coming in after being cured and then delivered to Sweden, and it was some beautiful stuff. We also had the opportunity to meet with Niklas Krohn who does the marketing work for Swedish Match. I can't say too much about the inner workings of how it works, but what I will say is that I was very impressed with the respect Swedish Match has for the customer in regards to how exactly they market their product. It is very tasteful, and done to cater to the customers they believe each product is suited for. We also had the privilege of visiting with Rupini Bergstrom from Swedish Match who I've spoken with online for quite sometime, and she's one of the nicest people you could ever meet - the hospitality she extended to us in Sweden was much appreciated. If you're new to snus, or unfamiliar to Swedish Match, I encourage you to check out their website This Is Swedish Snus, it's quite an education experience, and also their Original Pursuit website, as well.
Later on that afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet with Lars-Erik Rutqvist, who I am a big fan of. He actually was the contributer for a lot of information in our Snus FAQ at Snubie.com. It was great to sit down and talk with him and hear about his background as a cancer researcher at Karolinska. I really would like to thank Swedish Match for the kindness they showed us during our visit, and allowing us to meet all the key players in their company and truly learn not just what they're about, but the product they sell and how much they believe in it, and the standards they set forth and enforce day after to day to ensure that their customers get not just the most safe smokeless tobacco product in the world, but also the most quality snus on the smokeless tobacco market today.
After our visit with Swedish Match, Anthony and I enjoyed a few days of touring the streets of Göteborg and checking out the town, the sights, the sounds, and the general feeling we got just walking the streets and taking in everything around us. We enjoyed some of the finest cuisine money can buy, took in an art gallery at the beautiful Göteborg Museum of Art and a boat tour of Sweden thanks the folks at Paddan Boat Tours, we truly got to enjoy the "Swedish Experience". To be honest, it was very hard to leave. Everything was so beautiful, and so completely different from the US. Also, for those who have been asking - yes, we were able to navigate the language barrier - everyone spoke English, give or take maybe 5 people who didn't. We didn't convert any currency before going and found the exchange rate by using our bank cards to be quite favorable, however it was interesting that when you don't use your pin code, they look at you quite strange. I found that to be very interesting.
But sadly, all good things must come to an end, and we departed Sweden and began the long trip back to the US. When I look back on the things I've done and places I've been, I consider this trip to be one of the greatest moments of my life. Not just for the fact that I got to go to Sweden and meet with Swedish Match and enjoy the "Swedish Experience", but because it was so much more than that to me. Swedish Snus changed me, saved my life, and gave me a new outlook. I was unable to quit smoking by any traditional means, and Swedish Snus was the ONLY thing that ever worked for me. So to go to the Land of Snus and learn more about it and see how it's made and why exactly it is the safest form of tobacco in the world today was truly a blessing that I will never forget. I feel very fortunate that I had this opportunity, and again, I'd like to thank the folks at Swedish Match for showing us around, letting us into their factories, and allowing us to meet with the folks who make their snus and enable it to be the best snus product on the market today.
Okay, and I can't close this article out without this, because I know I've already received about 50 emails about it, but yes - I did come back with snus. Lots of snus. I mean c'mon, I was in Sweden, would you expect any less? Not only did I bring back Chad's Blueberry Mint Snus, or Mr. Jones Habanero & Garlic Select, or the very elite Chadizzy1 [Ginger Lime] Blend #7, I also picked up a few things here and there and made it back with no problems whatsoever in customs. Apparently, from what the guy at the gate told me, I had less than I was allowed to bring. Wish I would have known that earlier! Snus in Sweden is much cheaper (especially at the Duty Free shops at the airports) than what I'm used to - so I had to pack up a few things to bring back with me.
Check out the full Photo Album here, at our Photo Bucket account and see all the pics from Sweden!