Sunday, 19 June 2011 17:04

General Classic Blend and Nordic Mint Snus

Written by Mick Hellwig
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Author Mick HellwigSwedish Match NA held a super secret conference last Thursday in Chicago. A very select group of American bloggers attended. We were there to meet the newest Generals on the front lines of the snus war.

These are not the old stodgy round Generals that have been languishing behind the lines hoping that old tactics would save the day through some miracle. These are young, sleek and quick responding Generals who have a good chance of breaking through the allied wall of Camel, Marlboro and Skoal dominance.  They are being turned loose in 3 test markets,  Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia, on Monday June 20th.

The new General Classic Blend Snus and General Nordic Mint Snus, are new flavors in new cans. The tins are slightly oval with square edges with a used portion tray on the bottom. One of the guests caused a bit of a stir when he mentioned the similarities to the old Nick & Johnny East/West “coffin cans”.

An unfortunate term but a fairly accurate comparison, the new cans seal tighter and are smaller in every dimension. My biggest complaint about the new cans is the side label peels off when you open the tin, which leaves bare black plastic. It also peels off the ingredients list. With a few tweaks I feel it will be an excellent choice for the company’s direction for this product. The Trial packs hold 10 portions, the regular packs will hold 15. There is enough room to go to 20 portions in a can, which seems to not be in the plans.

The snus inside you ask? Well as most of my readers know I stink at reviews. Mostly because I can’t seem to stretch the words enough to fill the space required for an article. The new portions are dry, drierGeneral Classic Blend and General Nordic Mint than even a white portion, about .9 grams per portion and sized between a regular portion and the long (General long/Lab Series) portions. Still way more moisture than RJR or Altria are using.

General Classic Blend snus is made up of 22 different tobaccos. The flavor is similar to General Original, but with toned down pepper and a touch more citrus. Classic Blend is very close to General Smooth. I thought I noticed a difference, but I’ve been ill and my taste buds are not functioning at optimum capacity, and I could not tell you what the difference is. I like Classic Blend a lot. At roughly 7mg of nicotine, and only 15 portions, it will not be something I use a lot of but I will buy a few cans now and then.

As for General Nordic Mint, I am unlike, according to Swedish Match research, 75% of Americans in that I greatly dislike mint. I don’t like mint snus, I don’t like mint snuff, I don’t like mint dip, and I don’t like mint julips. I prefer my snus much more on the tobacco end of the spectrum. Grov, Ettan,Thunder Original, maybe a few cans of Goteborgs #2 now and then. Nordic Mint is a blend of spearmint and peppermint, slightly sweet and cool. If you like mint you will likely enjoy this one. Personally I’ll use this open tin up and leave the rest for Mrs.Mick.

I’m sure there will be better reviews posted very soon that cover the flavors much better than I can. I had to get something in there to hold your attention until we got here.

These new products have not even been launched yet as I write this and already I read on the internet complaints about them. About how Swedish Match NA is screwing us again, how this is a rip off and going in the wrong direction. I have a few thoughts in this arena.

Sorry folks, hate to break it to you but we current snusers are not SMNA’s target market for General Classic Blend and Nordic Mint. They already have us and know we order a broader variety of snus on-line.  I don’t see me or many of us buying a lot of 15 portion tins of snus. The target market is smokers, wanting to quit, and Camel/Marlboro snus users looking for a better product and flavor which actually includes nicotine.

During the meeting we saw some internal numbers that show how Camel Snus didn’t really lose any customers when Marlboro Snus came out. It seems everyone thought there would be competition between brands, but the numbers show new customers are buying Marlboro and the Camel people are sticking with Camel. Bleeding customers from RJR and Altria and adding new customers is Swedish Matches’s target.

I don’t know if the Swedish Match US people were prepared for what they got last Thursday. Their Swedish colleagues could have/should have warned them. They invited a bunch of educated bloggers, who by definition are opinionated, to sit and listen to their new strategy. We politely sat and listened for about 30 minutes before someone just had to speak his mind.

That opened the flood gates and suddenly every one of us was stating our opinion voicing opposition and in a couple of cases rattling their calm demeanors. Swedish Match has spent a lot of time and money on R&D and market research for these new General snus products, and while we all had some concerns, I believe this new strategy can work. IF it’s implemented as we were told it would be.

The new cans are similar in shape to the Camel tins which makes them stand out from the dip wall. They are in new snus chillers, which RJR has done much to convince the public snus should be.  There is 15 portions to the tin, which is optimal for people who don’t use 20-40 portions a day.

On a side note, I understand there is an ongoing debate about whether snus needs to be kept cold. I don’t know the answer to that. I know I keep mine cold as much as possible and Swedish Match company policy is that snus needs to be kept cold. That’s good enough for me. It’s their company and they need to do what they believe is best. Other companies can do what they feel is best. I do not have a winning argument either way, so I am not going to debate it.

These new General Snus offerings are going to put a dent in RJRs sales if the strategies for marketing are followed through on and effectively implemented. General Classic Blend and Nordic Mint are superior products to anything made in the US. The price point is going to be slightly higher than Camel Snus, but only enough to play into the subconscious thought that since it’s priced a bit higher it must be a bit better.

I have had my differences and complaints with Swedish Match’s tactics in the US. I have let certain people in Sweden know exactly my opinions. Now I have a new set of contacts on the US side of things to annoy. I was a little pessimistic, my normal mode, after the meeting about the new General Snus products, but as I thought about it more on the drive home I changed my mind. I am leaning optimistic now.

This really could be a new chapter in “Snus in America”. The people we met with were not old cigarette guys. They know the smoke-free tobacco business and they are learning to talk to a new generation of users. They know the reasons my admittedly “old guy” generation got into oral tobacco are not the same as what will attract the current generation.

The new General snus will be available on-line Monday, for those of you who want to try them and don’t live in Philadelphia, Dallas or Chicago.  

Swedish Match has also launched a new website and facebook page. I’ve seen them both and both are a major step up from the old pages. 

Bottom line is I think RJR and Altria need to be worried. The new enthusiasm inside Swedish Match and the new General snus offerings will make major gains against the super sweet, low nicotine products on the market today. Go get’em guys and gals.

MICK HELLWIG

Editor in Chief; Snuff Takers Ephemeris Magazine
Reporting from Chicago for SnusCENTRAL.org

Read 11085 times Last modified on Saturday, 09 November 2013 03:08

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