Throwing away preconceived notions, Swedish Match began a parallel program they called The Quest to Rethink Snus. SMAB embarked on an intensive series of consumer focus studies, market research, and a great number of brain-storming sessions; some of which I personally am convinced were strongly affected by alcoholic beverages. Their goal was nothing less than to create the Ultimate Snus.....user-friendly, uncomplicated, yet REAL Swedish snus.
In a move practically unheard of in the especially American tobacco industry, they not only talked to huge amounts of snus/potential snus users, but LISTENED to them! From the information received, some universal concepts quickly rose to the top.
People said they were tired of brands and logos everywhere they turned from products, places, and people. This sort of depressed the folks at one of our sister-sites, SnusGEAR.com, but I digress. This is not Sweden where the people have grown up with, are accustom to, and have come to appreciate all the taste and health values of snus compared to cigarettes.
This is the United States where the overwhelming majority of American tobacco users had never even heard of snus until 2006-2007 when (everyone thought, including me) American Big Tobacco invented it. Our early google searches for 'Camel SNUS', 'Marlboro Snus'; or just 'snus' overwhelmingly returned information on something called Swedish Snus and people became confused. Point of Fact: this confusion and frustration was the reason SnusCENTRAL.org was created. Centralize all factual and relevant information and opinions on snus and more in one location for the snus curious. If you never read the SnusCENTRAL story, it details those nightmare years for Americans, how and why SnusCENTRAL.org came to be.
As part of their investigations, Swedish Match began to suspect "too many choices and too little time just gets annoying in the end. What [new snus users] really wanted was simple and effective solutions that make their choices easier and fit their lifestyles, right now".
They also discovered some other interesting facts. Many Americans preferred the size of mini-portions; especially when using snus at work, since it was less noticeable. At the same time, they appreciated the value for the money of regular-portion snus, its enhanced flavor, longevity of taste, and yes, the nicotine.
The Ultimate Snus Team then challenged their 'Super Clever Scientists' at the mysterious Swedish Match Laboratories (which I visited a part of while in Sweden this past summer...not allowed to talk about it.) to simply develop anew generation of snus. And thus was born; and will be available beginning October 2009, Swedish Match's newest brand: 0102 - The Lab Series. Their Super Clever Scientists also have egos (or senses of humor) it appears.
Once the Snus Scientists quickly agreed to take full credit for the product branding by calling it the Lab Series, they dug into the data the Ultimate Snus Team had painstakingly compiled and with traditional Boris Karloff-style laughter, created what for Camel SNUS and their ilk may prove to be their worst nightmare!
SIZE: Full one gram portions but with a completely redesigned pouch. It's longer, thinner, has excellent mouth feel, and is less visible.
NICOTINE: 8mg/gram in each 01 pouch and 13 mg/g in each 02 pouch. The key with nicotine is moisture, however. The higher the pH of the snus, the higher the amount of Free Nicotine available. Free Nicotine is the nicotine your body is able to absorb. This is critical as Camel SNUS and Marlboro Snus clearly demonstrate. Both have very low moisture contents. Marlboro Snus's published total nicotine per mini-portion is just under 8mg. However, their Free Nicotine level is only about 1.4mg per pouch. Camel SNUS boasts nicotine of 8mg/pouch but doesn't talk about their Free Nicotine content. Camel SNUS is also as dry as dirt.
For both Camel and Marlboro, this fits with their corporate strategy: Smoke their cigarettes when you can; use their snus (or SNUS) when you can't. American Snus in general is designed not to replace cigarettes, but to 'complement' them. Understandable since almost all American snus manufacturer's prime business is cigarettes. Philip Morris USA went out of the way to ensure their cigarettes will continue to flourish when they 'helped' write The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act...the Kennedy/Waxman legislation.
Big American Tobacco sees snus not as a way to wean their brand-loyal cigarette consumers onto an infinitely safer product made like Swedish snus which will satisfy their nicotine addiction. Big American Tobacco's agenda was to exploit the 46MM American Smokers/Nicotine Addicts into using their cigarettes AND their snus. It was a callous profit/obscene profit business decision.
The hell with their consumer's health and the stress to the American Health Care system caused by cigarettes. To hell with employee productivity across America by eliminating the need for 'smoke breaks' and to cut down on sick-days; especially during the winter. Big American tobacco had the win/win opportunity to do something wonderful for the American people, the American economy and still make a huge profit. The Old Cigarette Guys were and are afraid of change, so the opportunity slipped away and was perverted into pure, unadulterated greed....profits at ANY cost.
Moisture and Free Nicotine Solution: This was solved long ago with regular portion Swedish Snus by simply making it damp by rewetting it before packaging. The average moisture content of Swedish/Nordic Snus is 45% to 55%. Unfortunately, some leakage can occur and it seems Americans don't like that. The solution? A new non-drip formula which is moist but does not leak! As a result, the moisture content of both 01 and 02 is about 43%. Most American snuses are less than 30%; some as low as 18%! REAL Snus and dry fingers.....Swedish Match 0102!
Swedish Match Laboratories developed a fresh, new product in a totally new format the distinguishes itself from ordinary (I read that as American) snus, both in taste and presentation.
So what about the Taste? Swedish Match describes the taste of both 01 and 02 as " balanced round and natural tobacco taste with notes of green herbs, oak and ceder with a slight hint of nuts. What, no Bergamot?? (just kidding although I think not mentioning Bergamot violates Swedish law). Reading that taste description I can say the following with no reservations: Tbis is NOT a Swedish Match Snus like any other brand they make; and I really can't imagine WHAT it's going to taste like.
Fortunately, as Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States, Swedish Match did manage to slip a few cans of both 01 and 02 into my outgoing Diplomatic Pouch. I should have it shortly and will report back as to my impressions. I also have a lot more pictures of The Lab Series snus but I'll save those for the next article.
FIRST THOUGHTS: The Lab Series demonstrates a strong 'We're not Old Cigarette Guys' attitude by Swedish Match and an aggressiveness I'm sure is going to shake up RJRT and PMUSA. LS-0102 is a bold move to take the initiative back from Susan Ivey and Reynolds in defining the benchmark of what snus is SUPPOSED to taste like. The packaging is also bold in that it rejects Ivey's "round can syndrome" argument while at the same time being completely fresh and innovative. All those icons on the sides of both cans are not just fillers: they mean something and most importantly, they mean something the average American can culturally understand, relate to, and are accustom to. The can also maintains the used snus container: in your face, American snus! Swedes don't like litter and neither to American Snusers.
The Lab Series also leaves open unlimited opportunities for future products. Is there a demand for a unique mint flavored snus to be added to the Lab Series? That would be called 03. Who knows what 04, 05, and 06 could/will be but for the brand/version-confused new American snusers, remembering your favorite is 01, if you need something extra, 02, and if you have a craving for who-knows-what, that's an easy to remember 07, will be a relief from trying to figure out that Skruf is really pronounced 'skroof'.....or that General is actually pronounced 'gen-er-AL'.
But first the concept of the Lab Series with 01 and 02 must be validated. Only Swedish Match knows what the future will bring. It would also be tough to fit 01020304050607 onto a can and it is really not a catchy brand name. I do over-think things some times. This is probably one of those times.
The important thing for especially long-time snus lovers to remember is not to take The Lab Series as an insult to all the time and experimentation you have spent learning the joys of REAL Swedish Snus. This is not the time to be an Elitist or pre-disposed to resent the Lab Series: it's REAL Swedish Snus too! For folks like us, the taste, mouth-feel, and our personal taste preferences and experiences will determine if 01 or 02 become a part of our regular rotation.
I'm enjoying one of my favorite snuses, General ONYX, as I write this. It too is a completely unique tasting snus versus anything else Swedish Match or anyone else produces. I will always love it and Swedish Match is not discontinuing the General, Ettan, Grovsnus and all the rest of their brands in favor of a single Lab Series. We also know the Lab Series is GothiaTek standard, so there is no sacrifice in quality of ingredients or manufacture. Swedish Matches smaller Swedish and Nordic competitors are not closing up shop in American snus despair either. Fear not, Xobeloot, Phantom lives! All is well.
See this as an opportunity to turn the clock back before Big American Tobacco bastardized, over-charged, under-nicotined, and mislead Americans who never heard of snus and were blessed to discover and fall in love with Swedish Snus without having their taste buds destroyed first....who were not told "Smoke when you can....snus when you can't" or make us feel guilty with "Your cigarettes will get Jealous".
The Swedish Match Lab Series may ultimately turn out to be an introduction to the other wonderful snus products of Sweden. Lab Series may just expand it's offerings and be "The Snus Brand" for Americans. It may turn into one of your personal favorites; the concept may even fail. But for the first time in years, Swedish Snus has struck back at Big American Snus....not just tried to emulate them for market-share. However things shake out for The Lab Series snus products, Swedish Match should be applauded for their audacity, free thinking, and courage.
During my recent visit to the Swedish Match facilities and factories in Gothenburg and Kungälv, what stood out about everyone I met was their enthusiasm for what they did, who they worked for, and their love of snus. Their pride was evident, they had as many questions for me as I for them, and rare of any corporation of their size or even larger I know of or worked for, every single employee has the ability to dream, suggest and contribute. More, they are encouraged to...Really. Not like our 'suggestion boxes' but to make tangible contributions which SMAB often implementes. The Swedish Match Team Members at all levels do participate and they love what they do. They also receive free Swedish Match Snus so how could there be a better environment to work and live?
This is a water-shed moment in Swedish Snus history potentially as significant as the invention of the white portion or stretching it a little, the move to pasteurization. Swedish Match, the largest maker of Swedish Snus on the planet, is not launching two new products, but a completely new and unique brand. I can't wait to taste Lab Series 01 and 02 because I'm in a no-lose position: whether or not it is added to the famous Mr. UNZ Select Collection, I'm living a piece of snus history!
Speaking of history, my and all of our hearts and prayers go out to victims, their families, friends and all the rest of us who were there for the horror of September 11th, 2001. America will not forget you. America will not forget, period.
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org