Here in Columbus, a major test market for creations such as Triumph, Grand Prix, Camel and early Marlboro tobacco in pouches, we had only one General Snus retailer originally.
After they got their initial shipment, a couple of college kids, a couple of my friends and me were the only buyers. The store sent back about half the initial order along with the cool General fridge a few months after the snus had passed its Best Buy date. To this day, they refuse to even consider selling it again. So for most of two years I could simply not buy real snus in a brick and mortar store without driving 2 hours one way.
About 2 weeks ago I heard my favorite cigar shop was going to start selling General Snus. When I excitedly drove to see for myself I found that although he had signs and a fridge, there was no snus to be found. I was told to wait a week or so and it would be available.
They know me; I’m the “crazy snus guy”. The shop owner had never heard of snus before me and part of why he is now stocking it is I converted his nephew from two packs of Marlboro Reds a day to snus. All it took was one portion of Nick & Johnny Black. Unfortunately, I have not made it back to the store to see if the shipment ever arrived. I will correct that failing this weekend.
Back to the gas station with the General Snus sign. I walked in and sure enough was looking at the lovely small General Snus fridge with lust in my heart and a full can of Ettan portions in my pocket. I knew I must buy a can of General lös!
The girl behind the counter asked if I knew what it was as they found the fridge there that morning, wasn’t sure what it was and didn’t even know the pricing yet. “Sit at my feet young one and let us begin your education.” Well that’s not quite what I said. I told her that what was in that beautiful snus fridge was what Camel SNUS wanted and failed miserably to be.
The price was $4.60 taxes included. The can was standard paperboard with FDA required ugly warning labels. Not a knock on Swedish Match as they have no real control over that, but compared to my old Swedish cans they are horribly disfigured. The Best By date was about 4 months away. Label aside, basically pretty normal.
At first glance the price seems a bit high. It was roughly $2 more than it costs me order General online before the PACT Act. Since passage of the PACT Act it is right in line with what it costs me to buy on line.
In the local market compared to Camel SNUS; 15 pouches for $3.69 and higher or Marlboro Snus at 6 pouches for $2.59, General is a heck of a deal. For my $4.50, I get 24 one gram portions or 45 grams of loose snus. Quantity aside, the vastly superior flavor and quality of General Snus makes it a downright bargain!
My one big argument all along was that General cannot be priced much higher than American dip. I have modified that complaint a bit. Dippers are not the primary target market. Smokers are. It will be difficult to get smokers to switch to an oral tobacco. Again RJR has done a lot of the work in getting the idea out there but the lack of nicotine and the flavors chosen are not, I believe, designed to allow smokers to switch.
Swedish snus was/is not designed to be a substitute for smoking, it works that way quite well, even though that was not the original purpose. I know the secret to selling “Real Snus” in the US is going to be selling it to smokers. So any argument from me concerning dip and pricing is moot.
In fully investigating the situation I found that several local gas stations and tobacco shops will be carrying General Snus as a test market. Lucky me! I hope it catches on.
I also hope Swedish Match North America decides to allow us more options than just a few of the General Snus products in the future. I would love to be able to buy a roll of General Long Sterk, Ettan, or Tre Ankare at my local corner store. I would love to avoid the horrendous shipping charges that I now have to pay to get only a few cans of my beloved snus. I would also like to not be the only person in my neighborhood to use real snus.
The one thing I see as a potential huge issue is education. RJR has done a pretty good job getting the term snus in to the American vocabulary. I know it’s up to private individuals like me to get the word out about the benefits and harm reduction angles of snus. The American FDA has banned the manufacturers from even hinting that real snus might be better for your body than 2 packs of Marlboros a day.
But… the sales reps cannot just drop off a full fridge of General and hope that convenience store clerks and the public has any idea what it is. I have heard of Swedish Match sales people that don’t want to sell snus. If no one knows what the product is and the sales reps don’t care, I can promise you they won’t sell much.
If the sales people you have now won’t do the jobs, for goodness sake, find some people who will. I want to see Coke sized refrigerators full of 100 varieties of snus. Yes, I know I’m a dreamer. I’d settle for 25 or 30 options. I’d be happy to have half of the cans of smoke-free tobacco on the shelves to be real Swedish snus.
WHAT I THINK at SnusCENTRAL.org