Human hands were not involved. Each container ended in a funnel-type cap with a myriad of tubes connecting to yet another array of tubes running along the ceiling. We were not even allowed into this climate controlled room: there was a large glass window we could view the Flavoring Room through but human interaction was not permitted. The Masters developed the flavoring recipes for each snus. Then in the production environment, computers took over control of everything concerning flavoring to ensure each batch conformed to the recipes.
It really was beautiful to see...until my eyes rested on two containers in the last row. They were labeled 'Triumph Original' and 'Triumph Mint'. Those names seemed just so out of place next to Etten, General, and the other legendary brands of Swedish Snus excellence.
When I first learned from confidential sources that Lorillard Tobacco had instructed Swedish Match to lower the nicotine in both Triumph snus products after the free giveaways were over, I contacted Lorillard. My source was reliable but I wasn't going to report this without at least giving Lorillard a chance to respond.
Their response was chronicled in my article EXCLUSIVE: Triumph Snus Manufacturer reveals Triumph Snus is LOW NICOTINE: Lorillard Senior Official Refuses to Comment!
I did give Lorillard some time to regroup and followed up months later. Unfortunately, Lorillard was still living in the 1960's thus spawning two more Triumph Snus / Lorillard Tobacco articles: Lorillard Tobacco: living in the past; ignoring the FUTURE and Lorillard Tobacco Part 2: living in the past; ignoring the EMAILS.
I asked our Swedish Match guides about Triumph being low nicotine snus but they didn't know. They didn't deal with the Triumph product and didn't know really anything about it. I was unwavering in my commitment to get to the truth on the record at the very place Swedish Match manufactured Triumph Snus for Lorillard Tobacco. I, and you the American snusers, would not be denied the truth!
We spent the time we were not on factory tours in the executive conference room engaging in discussions, hearing presentations from various individuals, doing an interesting blind taste test on loose snus followed by a chance to create our own snus, and more. We also were flattered that executives not on our rather extensive agenda who happened to be in Gothenburg during our visit took the time to pop in and introduce themselves.
Two of these gentlemen were Henrik Olsson; Director of Public Affairs, Northern Europe Group Public Affairs and Patrik Hildingsson, Vice President of Public Affairs for Swedish Match AB. These two are the lead warriors in working with the Swedish Government and others to most importantly overturn the Violation of Free Trade within the EU known commonly as the EU Snus Ban.
I don't remember if it was Jens Karlsson in introducing Patrik or Patrik himself, but the fact that prior to his current position, he was Vice President of New Business Development at Swedish Match North America.
Then it hit me: THIS was the man who engineered and authored the agreement with Lorillard which resulted in Swedish Match manufacturing Triumph Snus!!!!! If anyone could answer the question on Triumph's nicotine level manipulation, it was him!
With that, I turned to Patrik and laid out the gist of my article exposing Triumph Snus as having been nicotine-manipulated on Lorillard's orders. Then I sat back to see what would happen next. Would this be another Lorillard-like "I can neither confirm or deny" answer?
It wasn't. Swedish Match's culture is not anything like Lorillard's. They live in the present and are honorable people as well. Well, their competitors may have an issue with that statement but that's how I see Swedish Match which is all that matters to me.
Patrik seemed unfazed and replied "the Triumph Snus that was originally introduced and the Triumph Snus of today have the same nicotine level."
Hmmm. A little bit of a hedge there or just maybe a cultural difference. I pressed on, "Are you saying that when Triumph Snus was introduced and today's Triumph Snus have 8mg/g of nicotine?"
He replied "They have the same as any Swedish Match Regular Portion snus." Since Swedish Match regular portions contain 8mg/g of nicotine, I could only assume he was in fact saying 8mg/g....kind of.
Later, while meeting with the Head of Research and Development, Jerry Bogstrand, I asked him the same question about Triumph and received an answer very similar to Patrik's.
I later emailed Patrik and said in part "I did note you stated the nicotine levels in Triumph today are the same as the original Triumph product at introduction. That does leave the period in between open but I understand your not wanting to address if the nicotine levels were lowered at Lorillard’s direction during some period. At least I can correctly comment on the current product nicotine levels."
He replied "Overall nicotine content and nicotine uptake is a complex matter. However, in all snus brands we make (unless not stated on the can) we have the same level of nicotine. Not higher nor lower. This includes Triumph as well. That being said, nicotine release depends on many different factors of which one is moisture. Thus, if a product dries out it may affect the nicotine release."
As I later learned from Dr. Lars Erik Rutqvist, SMAB's Senior VP of Scientific Affairs and a long-time email-pal I finally got to meet in person, nicotine uptake is indeed a VERY complex matter. The subject does deserve and is on the list for an upcoming article....when I can figure out how to write it without confusing you as much as I am on nicotine right now.
What I can now report with confidence is that the current Triumph Original Snus and Triumph Mint Snus has the same total nicotine content as General Portion. What I can't say is since Triumph is manufactured differently so that it does not require refrigeration, what the Free Nicotine level in Triumph Snus is. Free nicotine is the nicotine available for absorption by the snus user.
I also learned too late that the moisture content of any snus portion will affect the pH of the snus which will affect the free nicotine available. The higher the moisture, the higher the free nicotine level. Not knowing the role of moisture at the time, I did not ask what the moisture level of Triumph Snus is.
As a side note, this would certainly explain Reynolds saying that Camel SNUS has 8mg/pouch of nicotine and that fact that it feels like it's extremely low nicotine to most Camel SNUS users. Camel SNUS is dry as dirt.
What all this doesn't explain is if there was a period of time that the nicotine in Triumph Snus was cut in half at Lorillard's direction.
Assuming that was not the case for arguments sake and that Triumph Snus has always had the same total nicotine content as any Swedish Match Regular Portion, then why couldn't Ron Milstein; General Counsel for Lorillard Tobacco, just have told me that when we spoke?
Why the "I will not confirm or deny anything concerning the nicotine levels of Triumph Snus"? Why the irrational and unprofessional response to my follow-up which addressed items publicly posted on Lorillard's own creaky website?
I've come to learn that Milstein, Lorillard in general, and a lot of other people in the tobacco industry are "Old Cigarette Guys". They are still professionally living in the 1960's when cigarettes were king, the manufacturers didn't have to answer to anyone and didn't.
These Old Cigarette Guys don't understand snus; especially Swedish snus. They are akin to horse-drawn buggy manufacturers being totally clueless and condescending to Henry Ford and his contraption, the automobile. They believed right to the day that their buggy companies were closed and liquidated that the automobile would never catch on.
It's a new day. Kennedy/Waxman with all it's flaws is now law. Philip Morris USA is happy. Lorillard at least for the immediate future, dodged destruction when menthol was protected thus saving their cash cow, Newport Cigarettes.
I'll bet Lorillard stopped popping the corks when Philip Morris USA announced the launch of Marlboro Blend No. 54; a new menthol cigarette directly targeting both Newport and Camel Crush.
Long term, how is the FDA going to explain in Court why menthol cigarettes are protected but clove cigarettes are not? Why clove and other flavors were banned because they allegedly were the gateway product for child smokers when its common knowledge that menthol is THE gateway flavor for attracting new and young smokers?
Clove cigarettes have maybe a 5% world market share. Care to guess what the market share of all menthol cigarettes in just the US is? This is going to make for an interesting legal spectacle indeed.
But that's for another time and another article. Unlike the Old Cigarette Guys at Lorillard, I do relate facts however they may fall.
The facts on the current Truimph Original Snus and Triumph Mint Snus are that they contain the same amount of total nicotine as any Swedish Match Original Portion Snus. I'll even go further and state that I believe that means 8mg/g
Why Triumph failed to maintain my nicotine levels and those who were testing it with me last year remains a mystery. In the end, it may turn out to be incredibly complicated nature of nicotine uptake by users. It could be the pH level of Triumph Snus. So many variables......
Next time I'm in Georgia though, I am going to pick up some Triumph Snus (if I can find any unexpired) and use it again. If it stills feels low nicotine to me, it leaves technical and metabolic questions on the table.
If however, it doesn't? If suddenly I have the same nicotine feeling from Triumph Snus as I get from Ettan Portion Snus? Then we have an implied answer for that middle period between Triumph's introduction and today. I'll let you and Lorillard know either way.
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting From Sweden for SnusCENTRAL.org