Tobak & Nikotinfri, ONICO, and Sprilla
Since I chain-snus, this sometimes included sweating, shakiness, and difficulty falling asleep. I started alternating Extra Strong portions with Regular portions to keep my nicotine levels a little lower. It helped but there were times I still had difficulty falling asleep....especially since I pop in a portion of snus as I get into bed. (nicotine dreams are unbelievable, though!)
One day while rearranging my freezer stock of snus, I came across a now de-listed can of tobacco and nicotine free Jakobsson's Ice Fruit. It had come as part of a sample package from Gotlandssnus months prior and had bypassed my refrigerator, going directly to the freezer. After all, why would I ever want to use a snus with no nicotine? I decided to defrost it and try it as a bedtime snus. It was acceptable taste-wise although not thrilling but it did help me fall asleep easier.
In September 2009, my friend Jimmy Karlsson forwarded me a press release Gotlandssnus had released. Forgive the Swedish to English translation:
Gotlandssnus AB is now launching two products on the market to challenge the giant Swedish Match. The first has the name Tobak & Nikotinfri. Tobacco and nikotinfri has in 2009 emerged as Best in Test among other products in the nicotine-free segment. The product has a well identified taste reminiscent of snus and a taste that lasts long.
The tobacco and nicotine free market is owned by Swedish Match and their Onico brand which Gotlandssnus now wants to challenge. Gotlandssnus AB is going to reduce the price so that both customers and consumers will have a satisfactory price. Retail price should be between 20 -25SEK in the store on the Swedish market.
The second product is Sprilla. Sprilla is a unique product that has a very long taste and character of refreshness. The design is designed by famous designers Gotlands Mikael Andersson and breathe modern and internationally. [sorry, I just couldn't get that last sentence translated to where it made sense in English]
Gotlandssnus AB is currently the only 100% Swedish owned company in the market, unlike other players who have international ownership. Gotlandssnus has its headquarters in Gotland and manufacture in Romakloster and have around 10 products in its portfolio (loose, portion and nicotine-free snuff). More information is given by Henrik Jakobsson CEO and founder of Gotlandssnus AB.
The nicotine and tobacco free snus market is indeed a small one. Figures supplied by Swedish Match indicate that regarding domestic sales in Sweden, ONICO accounts for 2.5% of the total SM snus sold, giving Onico an 84% market share in the category “non tobacco/ nicotine snus”. Of the total Swedish Match cans that are sold online, Onico represents a whopping 0.0004%! Gotlandssnus was unable to supply comparable market share figures by time of publication.
Given the incredibly small market share and interest in America, you might wonder why I'm even writing this article. I intended to write it 4 months ago, but more newsworthy topics kept popping up. I also had to write this article in spurts. It is also very difficult to write or think using only nicotine/tobacco free snus. After two portions of any of the nicotine/tobacco free snuses, I had to switch to General Ekstra Sterk, Thunder ES, or Skruf Stark just to function coherently.
Is Nicotine/Tobacco-Free Snus Safe?
There is a very good reason, especially now, to highlight the tobacco/nicotine snus products: SAFETY. That's why I'm writing this article in the first place. If there is no tobacco, what is in those pouches, anyway?
When tobacco/nicotine free snus was introduced in 2006 corn starch and corn fiber were common filler. Unfortunately, the second word in corn starch is 'starch'. When you combine starch with saliva, it turns into sugar. Sugar is not healthy for your teeth and gums, especially in lengthy direct contact through a pouch. Swedish Match and Gotlandssnus took this very seriously. Onico now is based on oat and cocoa fibers..
Jimmy Karlsson of Gotlandssnus stated of their current tobacco/nicotine free offerings, "Gotlandssnus has green tea which is very low in starch content in itself. We also use carrot fibers that make saliva not so intense which in turn makes Sprilla & TNF a safer product. In addition, we have flour to inhibit bacterial growth in the mouth. This together with the pH which is above 8 makes it very difficult for bacteria to thrive."
If Gotlandssnus and Swedish Match (and Danish manufacturer V2) were the only manufacturers making tobacco/nicotine free products, Safety would not weigh so heavily on my mind. Unfortunately, a number of other tobacco/nicotine free products have appeared on the market of late. Many are private labels with the actual manufacturer being unknown. Others are made by 2nd and 3rd tier snus makers. Cavities and receding gums are not something I'm trying for personally or would wish upon anyone. A few of these 'new' brands are so inexpensive, you have to wonder how they can make safe nicotine/tobacco free snus and break even, let alone make a profit.
My advice is this: If you are going to use a tobacco/nicotine-free snus for whatever reason, Swedish Match and Gotlandssnus are two manufacturers I'm very comfortable recommending. Sadly, there now are others I've never heard of so I also recommend thinking twice before you use any brand other than the two I've mentioned.
How Does ONICO, Tobak & Nicotinfri, and Sprilla Taste?
My purpose in writing this article was not to write a tobacco-free snus review. It's only fair that I address the taste and in one particular instance, jump all over it. Before using any of these products, I looked at each can and repeated to myself "this is not tobacco snus" about a dozen times. It's not a fair comparison since the taste has to be fundamentally different due to the ingredients.
Onico comes in a few different varieties. All contain 24 one gram portions as opposed to Gotlandssnus's 20 one gram portions. The Onico Original was a pleasant surprise as it 'almost' tasted like tobacco. Onico Enbar will please juniper fans and brought a hint of Goteborg's Rape' to mind. The Onico Pepparmint I liked more than I thought I would: peppermint is not a favorite flavor of mine generally. A brand new Onico product called ONICO+ is flavored with Ginseng and Guarana and was very tasty. Onico+ will be available for sale in Week 6 (Feb 8th). I have to wonder how a tobacco version of this flavor would taste. It would be unconventional for a Swedish Match flavor, but once Swedish Match made General Wintergreen, it appears any flavor of snus is possible. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a real snus version of ONICO+ turned out to be very popular. It should be considered as a future Catch Collection flavor.
Sprilla Ice Fruit was much better than the old Jakobsson's Tobacco-Free Ice Fruit. The carrot flavor while discernible, was much less noticeable than with the old Tobacco-Free Ice Fruit. The flavor was more in your face than the Onico flavors as well. Gotlandssnus is going bold where Swedish Match is elegant.
When it comes to Gotlandssnus Tobak & Nikotinfri, I don't know what is going through through their heads. This product as a stand-alone has a delightful peppery taste and was the only one of these snuses were I went through the entire can quickly. I even had to hold myself back until the Onico Original samples arrived so that I could compare them. TNF won a "Best in Taste" award and it was warranted.
What I DON'T UNDERSTAND is why Gotlandssnus never adapted this recipe to a tobacco snus? It may take a little finesse but I strongly believe it would quickly become the most popular snus Gotlandssnus ever made. Unlike Sprilla, it tastes nothing like any other snus they make and is outstanding. I love a peppery flavor and Tobak & Nikotinfri boldly takes pepper where no snus has gone before. If it's possible to add tobacco and my friend nicotine to the TNF recipe and still preserve the overall flavor characteristics, Gotlandssnus AB should do it. Period. I can not emphasize this enough to Jimmy and folks at Gotlandssnus. You can even name it Gotlandssnus UNZ.... unless V2 Tobacco goes mass market with Thunder UNZ Black and Silver first. V2 has first dibs on the UNZ brand.
Both the Swedish Match and Gotlandssnus current and future (in the case of Onico+) tobacco-free offerings were much better than I expected. Both manufacturers were going for a different style and they both succeeded admirably. Both also tasted less salty than their traditional snus for reasons I do not know of yet. If they only had nicotine....... but that would defeat their purpose.
I've broken, for the most part, my bed-time snus habit. But for those times I over-do the nicotine or want a bed-time snus larger than a mini portion, these cans will not go to waste.
Is There a Role for Tobacco-Free; Nicotine-Free Swedish Snus?
In a word, yes. For those looking to cutting down their nicotine intake; for those wanting to ramp down and finally quit using tobacco products altogether, these products are invaluable.
The tobacco/nicotine-free snuses also have a public relations and advertising value in light of the blatant insanity of the EU Snus Ban and individual EU counties restrictions on tobacco. In Germany for instance, I've learned you can buy cigarettes, tobacco cuts and even American moist snuff (although few stores bother stocking the American snuff) over the counter. But you can not buy Swedish Snus which is far safer of all the permitted tobaccos in Germany!
Swedish Match's current now-Phase IV clinical studies on using snus to reducing smoking/for smoking cessation use two control groups in each study: one using a regular tobacco snus portion and the other using an Onico product specially designed to taste identical to the tobacco version.
In Stockholm, SMAB also has a large HD advertisement for Onico. Since Onico contains no tobacco, it is not a violation of the tobacco advertising laws. If the Onico advertisement in all it's glory happens to subtly reinforce by omission Swedish Match as the market leader and maker of the most popular brands of traditional snus as well........ that's just a bonus.
Because tobacco/nicotine free snus is a niche market with a small but devoted following and Gotlandssnus is a small company, they are going all out to make themselves a very visible player by taking on Onico. By comparing themselves to Onico and loudly proclaiming their tobacco/nicotine free snus as the best tasting, they effectively marginalize the off-brands and appear as a mega-player in the non tobacco/ nicotine snus category.
Our online Snus Store @ SnusCENTRAL.com doesn't carry any tobacco/nicotine free products at all. Moe Unz, who runs our Snus Store, is scratching his head over this article. If you are going to try/use nicotine/tobacco-free snus, I very strongly recommend you stay with the Gotlandssnus and Swedish Match products. They taste great and are as safe as any food product you put in your mouth. You can buy them direct from these manufacturers or from a very small number of internet snus stores.
These products do have expiration dates just like traditional Swedish snus so check them as you would any other snus; more so actually because their inventory turns are no where as rapid as traditional snus. I didn't receive any guidance on freezing nicotine/tobacco free snus, but considering their ingredients I don't see why not. My Tobacco-Free Jakobssons Ice Fruit survived the freezer and defrosted well. I hope SMAB or Gotland's will correctly me quickly if I'm wrong.
Like any other snus or smokeless tobacco product from Scandinavia or especially the United States, it is critically important that you know what you are putting into your mouth and body. Be an informed consumer. Sorry, Moe. Wait until you read my upcoming Chaini Khaini snus reviews.....which we DO carry at SnusCentral.com. I do make poor Moe's life difficult at times.
As of this moment, my personal blood nicotine levels have dropped dangerously low. Time for some tobacco and nicotine loaded Extra Strong Real Swedish Snus!
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org