Olde Viking in it's horrible package (which Liggett couldn't even sell at $0.99 a can) has now appeared on-line for over $3 per can! SnusAB at its best was always considered a third tier snus with poor recipes and an obsolete factory. Gajane, to the best of anyone's knowledge, has never made snus before: they've just sold it. In 2009, Gajane bought the shuttered SnusAB factory, apparently blew the dust off the equipment, and are now making Olde Viking Snus, using the old hockey puck cans that came with the factory. We can only hope the contents have changed.....
Industry insiders say privately they see little hope of Olde Viking succeeding in the Swedish or American markets. The bigger question is about Oden's. Is Gajane planning on taking over and moving production of the Oden's Snus brand to the old SnusAB factory? Oden's does have name recognition now and is not a bad snus at all. I particularly like the Oden's Extra Strong Cinnamon. That will probably not be the case if production moves to Gajane/SnusAB.
Gajane doesn't have the experience, the recipes, or anything approaching a modern snus factory. They are a marketing company; not a Swedish snus manufacturer. Americans who do snus are well aware of Grand Prix and Tourney; both the quality and the cans. If not, or for new snusers, there is a plethora of Grand Prix and Tourney by SnusAB snus reviews all over the internet; none of them favorable. It should be a major battle to get snus consumers to pay $3.00+ a can when they can get First and Second Tier quality for the same or even less money. Sadly, I've also read Facebook and other internet comments along the lines "oh boy, a new spearmint snus!" This will be interesting to watch in a sick sort of way as 2010 progresses. If Olde Viking is successful, what does that say about the future of Swedish snus? Are bubblegum flavored mini portions next?
We tried to get a comment from Gajane, but while our Oden's snus arrives like clockwork at our Snus Store, information on Gajane is practically non-existent. Even the SnusCIA is impressed with their security: they can't even confirm Gajane sells plastic straws. Gajane does offer some tobacco products I never heard of (except Oden's, of course). I'm guessing they are all private labels or possibly I've just never seen or heard of these tobacco brands here or abroad. Cucaracha cigars (not La Cucaracha) come from Nicaragua but no more information than that is readily available. Tonix is a brand of sportswear and a sports drink (among other things) but not any tobacco products I could find. Nevertheless, Gajane distributes them. Our SnusCIA has a lot more digging to do.
I have to wonder if the Swedish Snus industry shouldn't take a breather on new products. New snusers in particular are easily overwhelmed by the huge selection already available. Innovation is one thing, but continuously adding flavors and brands just for the sake of adding them is another. The explosion of Strong and Extra Strong snuses in 2009 was warranted. This was a whole new class of snus in the case of the Extra Strong's in particular.
Experimenting with new flavors as Swedish Match does with their Catch Collection and V2 Tobacco does with their Limited Editions is also a worthy endeavor. The Swedish Match Lab Series with it's completely revolutionary pouch is a response to consumer demands for a more discreet, comfortable portion pouch which contains one gram of snus.
But lets be honest; do we REALLY need yet ANOTHER Spearmint or Wintergreen or Mint snus in general; especially with some manufacturers selling multiple versions under their different brands? I"d like to see a Pomegranate snus that has a lot more flavor and nicotine than Mocca's. Why are there only two legitimate brands; Gotlandssnus and Nordströmmen, who make a Julesnus?
I've been trying some nicotine/tobacco-free snuses for another article. Onico has a Ginseng and Guarana flavored product. It's very good, flavor-wise. Why don't they test a tobacco/nicotine version of the same flavor? Gotlandssnus's Tobak & Nikotinifri Original Recipe (and award winner) has a wonderful peppery taste which is nowhere to be found in the regular Gotlandssnus and Jakobsson's snus product lines. Why not? It's not like the bubblegum taste craving snus users are making a big fuss....yet.
Innovation is just that, as is being unique. Simply churning out more of the same flavors (especially in the hope of converting American Moist Snuff users) with slight variations is counter-productive from a business standpoint as you ultimately end up cannibalizing your own consumer base. It would be a shame if the sheer size of the potential US market for Swedish/Scandinavian Snus manufacturers will compromise traditional Swedish Snus itself. Maybe the (hated by me) French have a point: American culture can corrupt even the most venerable and sainted European institutions. In the case of Real Snus, the entire world suffers.
I'm not a snus elitist despite what this article may cause you to assume. I just hate to see perfection dumbed down in an attempt to figure out what will convert 45MM American smokers and Lord knows how many dippers into Swedish snus users. Big American Tobacco sold out a long time ago for pieces of silver. But the Swedes? Swedish Snus? What value to gaining the whole world if you lose your soul?
As 2010 begins,
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org