I've wanted to interview the folks at Gotlandssnus for some time. They are a small company in size, but the Gotlandssnus and Jakobsson's brands of snus they produce looms large and ranks high with snus users around the world. As of the end of 2008, Gotlandssnus's business had grown over 150%. Since "The Factory" is so much larger and has so much more capacity then their former production home, I suspect big things for Gotlandssnus in 2009.
They are also very unique to me personally because Gotlandssnus AB is the only Swedish/Nordic snus manufacturer who has yet to make a snus I don't love! I have my favorites among all the Scandinavian snus manufacturers but they all also make a snus or two that I just don't like. Not so with Gotlandssnus.
Gotlandssnus has always been incredibly friendly and open like most Gotlanders, but when it came to the details of Gotlandssnus AB, they leaned a little towards the side of secrecy. OK, more than a little. Maybe it's because they are the lead player in the snus version of David and Goliath. But as I consider myself a Gotlander in spirit and armed with my list of questions, I pressed onward in search of answers.
A very large part of Gotlandsnus's success can be tied to it's management team. Jimmy Karlsson, Market R/D; is a noted Product Developer and R/D Manager from the resturant industry schooled for four years in food quality, HACCP, and all other food quality standards.
Managing Director Henrik Jakobsson is among other things,a former quality expert from Ericsson and a licensed Six Sigma Black Belt (for those of you who are not Project Management Professionals, a Six Sigma Certification at the Black Belt level is akin to an Executive MBA from Harvard University in the business world). His name should also ring a bell, especially for my fellow Ice Fruit fans. As he says on the Jacobsson's Snus Website, "My family was already, during the 19th century, snus connoisseurs and great-grandfather Jakob was well known for his special snus. It was as evident then as it is today that Jakobsson’s Snus tastes as snus should taste."
Niclas Johansson, Factory Manager, is the former Factory Manager for Ericsson and Danielsson.
Daniel Sundgren, Gotlandssnus AB Marketing and Sales Manager simply said the outstanding success of the Gotlandssnus and Jacobsson's Brands are directly due to his efforts and the company would be lost without him. Of course, everyone in Sales and Marketing says that....it's the nature of being in Sales and Marketing. So while maybe the company would some how move on if he were (God Forbid) hit by a bus one morning, his impact is clearly evident in the name recognition and popularity of the Gotlandssnus and Jacobsson's Swedish Snus in the world-wide snus marketplace today.
Gotlandssnus and Jakobsson's snus, aside from having outstanding taste and duration time, also have extremely low TSNA levels: 0.5-0.7 ug/g average with a median of 0.65 ug/g. TSNA's are the carcinogens found in tobacco products.
Jimmy Karlsson almost fainted when I stated that at 0.65 ug/g, their snus's have the lowest TSNA levels of those manufacturers who publicly go that granular in their reporting. "If we have the lowest, I don't know so don't say we have the lowest in your article!"
OK, so you have really, really low TSNA's. Others could be lower; others are most certainly higher. But Gotlandssnus and Jacobsson's snus do have very, very, low TSNA's.
I have a thing about TSNA's because we know American Chew/Dip has TSNA's through the roof compared to any Swedish Snus - some over 120 ug/g !!!!
And American snus? Who knows because they won't tell us! So like a dog with a bone, I re-phrased my question.I asked how they are able to produce such great tasting snus yet still manage to have such low TSNA's?
Jimmy chuckled. "Hard to say but perhaps we are a bit too much in love in our product! And the fact that we only use the highest quality of tobacco also has some effect on the flavor/TSNA."
Niclas saw I was going to try and re-phrase my question and quickly interjected, "Some things are very secret, and one of those things is how you keep a low TSNA level in snus". I mentally admitted defeat and moved on.
In the last six months, SM, V2, Skruf, Gajane, and others have come out with new Extra Stark products primarily for the US and Norwegian markets. Does Gotlandssnus plan on introducing any new high nicotine snus’s? What is your opinion of the whole Extra Stark / Extra Strong, very high nicotine snus race?
Daniel jumped in. "Let them chase each other. We are fully concentrated on keeping the high quality on our snus and to do NEW snus in the long term. That being said, I think the Strong is here to stay and that they are chasing the Cigarette Smokers."
But is Gotlandssnus/Jakobsson's going to be releasing any new products in 2009? Henrik answered "Gotlandssnus is expanding at a very fast tempo right now. And if we are going to release any new products, our snusers will be the first to know."
I turned to Jimmy and asked him what his thoughts were on American Snus. I could see him struggling, trying to come up with a diplomatic answer. My snus-heart may belong to Sweden and Gotland, but my passport is American. He finally said "American snus is too sweet and too high in TSNA's and very different from Swedish snus". THAT is an understatement to say the least!
Since he was being diplomatic, I asked what his opinion was of the 1992 EU ban on Snus, why was it imposed, and did he think it would be overturned. His reply? "Politics. Hmmm . Ask the snus lobbyists in Brussels."
In reality, Gotland as a Member of the B7. The B7 is a network of the seven largest islands in the Baltic Sea of which Gotland is the largest in land mass and second largest in population.
The B7 also loves snus; much to the chagrin of the EU. Especially Gotland and the Finnish ruled, but ethnically Swedish, island of Åland. The B7 together with the Swedish Government has become very vocal of late on a revocation of the EU Snus Ban. As to the lobbyists in Brussels, the Swedish Match-Philip Morris International Joint Venture brings the power of Philip Morris and their lobbyists into the mix. Things could get very interesting in the next year or so.
I decided I'd gotten as many answers as I was going to get and it was getting late. I asked Henrik to tell me something about Gotlandssnus AB that was not common knowledge in the United States. He replied "Gotlandssnus is the only Snus manufacturer in the world that is 100% owned by Swedish stockholders and is a 100% Swedish company."
Daniel, ever the marketing guru, quickly added, "Don’t forget if you want to buy the only 100% Swedish snus, try Gotlandssnus/Jakobsson´s!"
I agree, Daniel! To anyone who hasn't tried Gotlandssnus or Jakobsson's yet, you are in for a treat. Especially if you are a flavored snus lover, which I wasn't until I tried the Jakobsson's Ice Fruit, you're really in for a treat. I've actually been enjoying the Gotlandsnus Anis Portion Snus as I've been writing this. The limited edition Julessnus is another flavored favorite. The portion version was so good I tried the loose....my first lös experience! The taste was outstanding.
Unfortunately, no one explained to me that a pris was supposed to be about half an inch long. I stuffed the equivalent of 6 to 7 grams into both sides of my mouth which is not that far below the fatal dosage for nicotine. But that's for my next article, "Loose Snus Kills....If you're STUPID like Me!"
Until then (and thank you to everyone at Gotlandssnus!),
The Snus Guru
Reporting From SnusCENTRAL.org