The opinions fly back and forth about Jakobsson's Ice Fruit as a starter snus, Gotlandsnus Yellow, Gellivare, Phantom, Thunder, Odens, etc.
Let's say you're an American snuser going to Sweden for a week. Your mouth is watering to grab a fresh roll of your favorite snus as you anticipate taking in the long summer days by the sea. After customs in Stockholm's Arlanda airport, you run to the 7-11 by the exit near the taxi stand. You see the snus cooler behind the counter, and you ask for one can each of Jakobsson's, Gotlands, Gellivare, Phantom , Thunder and Odens. The 7-11 worker looks at you like you as if you are speaking Chinese. "I have General, Goteborgs Rape, Ettan, Grov, Skruf, Kronan, Granit, Lucky Strike and Montecristo." You guiltily take a Montecristo and head for the cabs.
In town, you visit several of the many independent convenience stores, and you see JTI (LD, Camel, and maybe some Gustavus and Level), more BAT (Mocca, Retro), Imperial (Skruf/Knox portfolio), and Taboca products in their small yellow "Montecristo" branded coolers. But 90% of the shop is General (all types), Rape, Ettan and Grov. What happened to all the great products I've been buying? I thought they were popular in Sweden!
They are not. I have written before that the cost of entry into the Swedish snus market is high, and it is one often reduced or removed from Big Tobacco companies' annual budgets during pre-submission review because of SM's dominance. No return on investment. And if a company does not want to pay Swedish Match Distribution to take its product to market, the shopkeeper won't buy it. He has one tobacco order per week for all tobacco products and accessories, and SMD is the only vendor.
When Lucky Strike went out of stock recently, one poster on another forum wrote that he thought the product was a 'workhorse' of the market. Last summer, it had less than one half of one percent market share. A money-pit (or as BAT would say, a "long term investment for a tier one strategic brand")
The Swedes know what they like, and they like what they trust, and stick with it. 10% of all cars purchased annually are Volvo V70 station wagons. Old cigarette brands, Prince and Blend still command around 25% combined market share. Bergamot (General), pure tobacco (Ettan), juniper (Rape) and rough-cut (Grov) are the 4 types of snus. Swedish Match has made them forever, and Swedes will buy them forever. On weekends, urbanites may splurge on Montecristo or Onyx, but it is not in the average Swede's mentality to stand out from the crowd or to experiment in public. SM products are reliable, and Swedish to boot. Some research has shown that entry products like Mocca and Catch eventually lead straight to General. It's inevitable. Like Global Warming.
WHAT ABOUT MY ICE FRUIT?
Companies like V2 have jump-started snus as an Internet-only business. Off-Road, Phantom, Thunder and Nordstrommen have become Internet champions. My own sources in the tobacco brokerage business have verified their model is showing growth. V2 has blatantly experimented with American-style tastes (i.e. non-Swedish) and aromas to remove the 'stinkyness' that often prevents trial.
Gotlandssnus, which struggled in recent years as big tobacco consolidated its hold on local retail, has acquired a new market outside of Sweden (with a boost from the Jakobsson's brand as a starter product for non-Swedish tastes), and built itself a new factory to boot. As the only other widely known Swedish producer outside of Swedish Match, it will hopefully re-build its base in Sweden as it grows outside as well.
WHAT ABOUT MY TRIP?
Settle in with the tried and true. Go native with General. If you don't want the "stinky" snus aroma, and want a wet portion, locate some LD Black. Or go nuts on the now non-illegal pleasure of Montecristo or Romeo y Julieta (non-sweetened aniseed). Better yet, get on a puddle-jumper to Gotland . Visby is super-trendy in the summer, and you will find the local products there, fresh from the factory 30 miles up the road. Maybe even go to the factory in Roma and knock on the door.
As a tourist destination in the summer, Sweden is absolutely fantastic. If you catch good weather, you will have endless sunlight for 24 hours on both sides of the summer solstice. Stockholm's nightlife can be pretentious, but that's part of the wonderful fun. And access to nature and culture is all within walking distance. Or get out of town, and see real nature. Get on a boat and tour the archipelago.
Live from New York on SnusCENTRAL.org