08 February 2012

The State of the Snus: Report from the 2012 Snus Summit in NYC. 8 February 2012.

As you probably know already, Nash and I went to New York to represent Snubie.com and GoSmokeless.org at the 2012 Snus Summit in NYC. It was great to finally meet with Larry from SnusCENTRAL, Julls from SnusCENTRAL YouTube, Mick, Feck, and Micah from The Snuff Takers Ephemeris. I hung out with Anthony from DrSnus when we were in Sweden not too long ago - so it was good to see him again as well. It was nice to finally put personalities in person with the personalities I know online for these guys and they were all super cool to hang out with. We had lots of fun, many late nights, epic adventures - some we can talk about, and some we can't! It was also really cool to meet That Snus Guy, I've been wanting to meet him for a while now.

Nash and I actually flew out on Friday, a few days ahead of the plan because he had never been to New York and I haven't been in about a decade so we came in early to check out some of the festivities. I don't fly well, so it usually takes a medicated cocktail to calm my nerves and enable me to get in the winged can of death and ascend to 30,000 feet. I do love snus for flying though. Back in the day when I was a smoker I remember flying and the first thing I did when I got off the plane was find the smoking area. It's cool to pop in a snus and make a flight and not have to worry about that mess. Makes the flight a lot more bearable.

Left: Nash, Right: Chad. We spent the first few days kicking it between Newark and NYC. We went shopping in Newark and found out they don't pay tax on clothing and other retail items. It was kinda cool to go shopping and not be bombarded with sales tax. The next day we took a bus into the NYC and thanks to assistance from Siri, we were able to navigate around Manhattan pretty well. Though we didn't actually do much "touring" or sight-seeing, we did have a hell of a time. New York is such an awesome city - we found lots of things to do, so it was definitely a great time.

It was sheer insanity to see the price of cigarettes in New York. But it was even better to see that snus is still cheaper than smoking. Cigarettes ranged from $10 a box to $15 a box depending on where you shopped. We saw Camel/Marlboro "snus" anywhere from $4.99 and up in various places we stopped in. It's one of those wow moments, to see those prices. And to still see so many people smoking around the city - that's dedication. When I was a smoker, if prices would have gotten that high I would have quit a lot easier, and if snus was around and much cheaper it would have been a definite must-do to make the switch. Snus was everywhere in NYC, Nash and I saw a used portion on one of the buses we were on of REAL snus, so people in the city are definitely looking for options and trying other things.




We used the store locater from GeneralSnus.com to check out retailers in the city and found TONS of General sold in NYC. The prices were around the same as the chiller pictured to the left, 7.50 a can was the average. Still, at 7.50 a can for a safer alternative - that's not too bad of a deal. Still cheaper than smoking. The city was covered with round can chillers and more towards the outskirts was the Nordic Mint/Classic Blend (General 2.0). While on the subject of GeneralSnus.com, check out SwedishSnus.com - it's no longer the webstore it used to be, Swedish Match actually turned it into an English language version of their other site - SvengstSnus.com. So it's pretty legit. So - on to the Snus Summit. We covered a LOT of stuff.





Usually when there's a get together with Swedish Match they have certain things they want to discuss with us. But we always bring questions to them that you guys ask us on our blogs or forums to make sure that your voices are heard, too. Two of the biggest questions I received going into this were "Is General being removed from Speedway?" and "What's up with Ettan Snuff?" First, General is not being removed from Speedway. If you see a store that doesn't have it - it's because it simply isn't doing well in that store. That doesn't mean it's gone forever, just gone from that location. Next - Ettan Snuff/Pouches (US) isn't "gone", but they were kinda hazy on the next step with it. The vibe I got was that it's not gone and that we'll probably see more of this in the future.

The first part of our morning meeting was to meet with Conny from Swedish Match. He's a tobacco/flavor guru and genius. We were out last night and Julls remarked that Conny "has a phD in taste" which couldn't be more true. We started off the day by focusing on a lot of the blends of tobacco that Swedish Match uses. It was interesting to note that of 4,000 types of tobacco in the world, Swedish Match uses about 100. We focused on American tobacco from Pennsylvania, Indonesian/Java tobacco, tobacco from Argentina, tobacco from India, and tobacco from Spain. To illustrate the point they were making - they had all these pure snus jars with unseasoned tobacco from this different region and we got to mix them and add flavors and whatnot. It was interesting to remark how many of us didn't even add flavoring, but just mixed tobaccos. Each tobacco - depending on region - has a different taste profile/nicotine level. The highest were from Pennsylvania and South Africa whereas the lower ones were from Argentina and Spain. Some have almost tea like tastes, some have hints of vanilla, some have a licorice taste. When the tobaccos are blended into snus, added flavors accent these natural elements of the taste in the tobacco to enhance and bring out these flavors in the natural tobacco leaf/flavor profile. It was really interesting stuff. They talked a bit about General Green Harvest and mentioned that this type of tobacco used isn't grown year round, but it sounded like we wouldn't be seeing the last of Green Harvest. So, fingers crossed.

Next, Markus talked to us some about the joint venture with PMI which is going to be bringing snus into several new markets with some pretty exciting varieties. It was interesting to see that all the new cans were the General Smooth/Catch Pure Mint cans but with General/Marlboro/Parliament branding. Interesting stuff. Coming soon to Taiwan are the following.
General Original: Mild and balanced tobacco mixture with explicit notes of dried apricot and with a pleasant sweet tone of caramel.
General Mint/Fresh Taste: Mild and sophisticated tobacco mixture flavored with balanced peppermint and with notes of fresh eucalyptus together with exotic herbs.
Marlboro Original: Mild and dark tobacco taste with explicit notes of chocolate and honey together with hints of coffee and caramel.
Marlboro Mint: Mild and smooth tobacco taste with fresh and cooling peppermint together with hints of licorice and caramel.

The joint venture with PMI will also be bringing some more products into the Malaysian market, but only General products and not the Marlboro products going into Taiwan. These will also be in the old General Smooth/Catch Pure Mint cans. I'll attach pics to the bottom of this blog post of the new cans. We got to check out the cans and the snus - it was all actually pretty good stuff. The cans were probably the best part, but the warning labels were insane. Much like the new ones the FDA is requiring in the US, these were over the top and completely unnecessary. The following products are coming to Malaysia.
General Original: Mild and balanced tobacco mixture with explicit notes of dried apricot and with a pleasant sweet tone of caramel.
General Mint: Mild and sophisticated tobacco mixture flavored with balanced peppermint and with notes of fresh eucalyptus together with exotic herbs.

General Snus is also being brought to Canada. I'm not sure how this works with the relationship with PMI/SMAB but I know Benson & Hedges is still handling the distribution of it in Canada. These cans are the classic General cans but with a neat little seal on the inside of the can. All the others products being spread around the world had this as well. Not sure if this is something SM is experimenting with or not, but it was a cool feature added to the can. I have friends in Canada who have already been seeing this so I think this has already been in testing but the release may just add to the areas that sell it. In Canada, you'll be able to find the following.
General Smooth Taste: Mild and balanced tobacco mixture with explicit notes of dried apricot, chocolate and with a pleasant tone of dark tobacco.
General Original: Full-bodied, spicy tobacco taste with pronounced notes of bergamot and hints of hay, green grass and stable.
General Mint/Fresh Taste: Mild and sophisticated tobacco mixture flavored with balanced peppermint and with notes of fresh eucalyptus together with exotic herbs.
General Titanium: Full-bodied, spicy tobacco taste with fresh notes of bergamot and hints of sweet licorice

When in our meeting, Nash made the joke, "In Soviet Russia, snus uses you!" The joint venture with PMI is also bringing several new snuses into the Russian market. Though other companies "kind of" have a prescence there, GN Tobacco is one I can think of off the top of my head, SM is bringing a new brand of snus that is a familiar and establish cigarette brand into the Russian market. Andrew Romeo wrote an article at SnusCENTRAL about the Parliament Brand/Russian market that is pretty interesting. Coming soon to Russia will be the following snuses.
Intense Creation: Full-bodied, spicy tobacco taste with pronounced notes of bergamot and hints of hay, green grass and stable.
Mint Creation: Mild and balanced tobacco taste with explicit notes of spearmint and peppermint, with a pronounced sweetness.
Original Creation: Mild and balanced tobacco taste with explicit notes of dried fruit and hints of licorice and dark vanilla.

I think that's everything. Thanks for reading, and have a great day! Wait, that isn't it. I know some of you just went, "COME ON!" For a Steve Jobs moment, and the info most of you want to know the most - there is one more thing. The US Market, and the reason for our meeting in NYC.

In June of 2011, Swedish Match revealed their plans to push into the US market with two new products designed for US consumers - General Nordic Mint and General Classic Blend. Though we were sworn to secrecy punishable by being force fed Camel "SNUS", we were shown sales numbers and statistics for how the new General is doing in the markets launched so far. In the 3 markets, General was performing quite well which is warranting the release of the new General in SEVEN additional markets. I know, this isn't the nationwide release you were all hoping for, but you have to consider that snus still only has a 4% market share of smokeless tobacco in the US. It is growing, but it does take time. These seven markets will be revealed soon, and I'll be sure to share them here as soon as I know them. It was interesting to see how much snus grew last year, and it's continuing to grow. One of the things many of us asked at the meeting was how do Swedish Match reps train their clerks at these stores/store owners ot know the difference between REAL snus and the fake American knock-offs? There is a lot that they are shown to know the difference involving print and videos - so these people are being well informed about what they're selling. I can't discuss much or show the information but we got to look at the packet and it was pretty well put together.

When it comes to snus, it's important to note that there is a difference. American "snus" (Camel, Skoal, Marlboro) is NOT real snus. No matter how many times they say "they perfected snus", it simply isn't true. Real snus comes from Sweden. Word of mouth is the most important way to make this happen. Those of you who want snus in more markets - help us and do your part. Myself and others in the community can only do so much as advocates, it's your job to be snus ambassadors and carry the message to the street, carry it to your friends, help inform people so that they know the facts and the difference between the shitty American knock-offs and REAL snus. We had a great time in New York and it was great to see the snus market growing as it has been the past several years, and we'll all continue to do our best to push this product into the US as much as we can because snus does save lives, it does help people quit smoking, and it is the safest form of tobacco consumption available. Help us spread the word and let's see snus continue to grow in 2012 and into the future!


More pics of the new cans from the joint venture with PMI and Swedish Match below:















3 comments:

  1. Was that Jakobsson's Mint and Wintergreen I saw in that General fridge...lol ;-)

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  2. Please tell me you busted out a can of brandy alexander, and started casually handbaking prillas in front of the Swedish Match guys.

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    Replies
    1. They never seem too interested when I bring it up. haha!

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