If you go back a few hundred years in tobacco history, you can see where Swedish snus and American moist snuff split on the tobacco evolutionary tree into their present incarnations. Most snus users are familiar with the Röda Lacket brand. Did you know that Röda Lacket translated into English is Red Seal, today a bargain American moist snuff product? Did you know that Ettan Snus and Copenhagen Snuff were both created in 1822?
Robert Hubbard, SnusCentral.org Columnist and Publisher of The Snuff Takers Ephemeris Magazine, wrote two classic articles which I encourage both snus and moist snuff users to read: Forget Camel SNUS; The Real History of Snus in America and American Moist Snuff versus Swedish Snus It seems America has been "re-inventing" Swedish snus for hundreds of years before Camel SNUS was even a concept.
Enter Swedish Match and Ettan Snuff
Swedish Match US of Richmond Virginia; specifically their US Smokefree Products Division, handles smokeless product marketing, development, and sales within the USA (hence the name). Their primary product focus is their moist snuff and chew brands and products. Swedish Match General Snus marketing and sales in US brick and mortar stores are handled separately and jointly with the Smokefree Products Division in Stockholm.
Among the variety of dip flavors available in the US, a very popular one is Natural or Natural Flavor. Many brands offer Natural: Red Seal, Husky, Grizzly, Red Man Moist Snuff, Longhorn, and Timberwolf but UST's Copenhagen Snuff dominates the Natural flavor segment. Natural/Traditional flavored Swedish snus was the flavor profile the current American Natural moist snuffs were originally based on. In fact, the original Copenhagen flavor was designed from an old Swedish snus recipe.
Swedish Match wondered if a current Swedish snus recipe could be successful as an American moist snuff product. Examining their snus recipes versus the Natural dip flavor profile, they decided that Ettan would be their best choice.
Focus groups comprised of hardcore American dippers were conducted within the US. Their comments were very interesting and validated a pet theory of mine concerning who the target market for Swedish snus really is.
All lower-lipped Ettan Snuff as would be expected. They were later given Prismasters and the option of trying Ettan Snuff in their upper lip. By doing so, they would not have to spit. There was virtually no interest among the test group participants in the upper lip/no spitting option.
If those who had tried snus; primarily American made or made for the American market, they found the snus flavors too much like candy compared to the taste of Natural snuff. Some snide comments about snus users were made I won't repeat. For these participants, real men used snuff and spit.
As a snuff, the Ettan was very well received regarding flavor and consistency. Natural flavor snuff fans were all of agreement that compared against Red Seal all the way up through Copenhagen, they not only enjoyed with the taste, but the cut of the Ettan Snuff. The Ettan had a finer cut than they were accustom to buying and they liked that.
Most of the focus group participants did not usually use snuff in pouches. When asked why, the majority opinion was that the pouches were too weak tasting forcing them to use multiple pouches at the same time. It came as a bit of a surprise that the Ettan Snuff pouches were so popular with these same people after they had the opportunity to try them. The group(s) opinion was the Ettan pouches were much stronger than the US pouched snuff they had tried previously. While all the participants were non-pouch snuff users primarily, all who tried the Ettan pouch snuff said that if they were to ever use moist snuff in a pouch in the future, it would be Ettan Snuff.
Reviewing the Ettan Snuff focus group reactions against various Snus focus groups I've sat in on, there is overlap but I still feel the target market for Swedish snus is cigarette smokers. By test-releasing Ettan as a moist snuff, Swedish Match is effectively doing to the moist snuff market what Reynolds and Camel Snus did to the snus market in he US: redefining the product to the American consumer. The difference with Ettan Snuff is that dippers will be able to enjoy a superior taste and quality versus Skoal, Copenhagen, and the of the old snuff names. New US snus users whose tastebuds and wallets fell prey to "American-style" snus were not as fortunate.
Having established through the focus groups that Ettan Snuff seemed a viable product for US dippers of Natural moist snuff, the next step in the Vitality Test was to choose the test markets. Frankly I was a little little surprised that Portland Oregon, Boise Idaho, and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania were the ones chosen. Moist snuff use is very popular in the southern US. Why not test Ettan Snuff there too?
Ackerman explained that the pilot market selection criteria Swedish Match used for Phase 1 of the Vitality Test was based on a few key factors:
- Being a premium snuff market
- Covering the spectrum of tobacco taxes from highest to lowest
- Ettan Snuff would only be sold by chain convenience and discount tobacco outlets. The Redman; not General, distribution chain would be utilized.
Ettan Snuff retailers will be supplied with an Ettan Snuff chiller as seen in the picture. The Ettan chiller is the same size as the General Snus chillers available with or without a stand and is intended for on counter/behind the counter placement. In response to my question, Ackerman stated that during Phase 1, the retailers are being asked to only display the product in the chiller; not to place it in their shelf section.
I suspect this may change if the trials advance to Phase 2. While the stores surveyed for their interest in participating in the Ettan Snuff trials had no objection to using the chillers, expanded marketing will uncover retailers who will not like using the chiller if the General Snus chiller is any example. Counter and shelf space are both premium commodities to a retailer. The chiller takes up a lot of both.
In a business where volume dictates profits and cost controls are constantly being fine-tuned, I've heard of more than one General Snus retailer who complains about the cost in electricity of using the chiller. Ackerman feels that in 2011, Reynolds has driven the "Sold Cold" message out hard enough with their Camel SNUS retail fridges that Swedish Match doesn't see the Ettan chiller as a point of resistance any longer.
The Ettan chiller is very eye-catching, especially sitting in the moist snuff and chewing tobacco section, which is good for attracting curious dippers. I suspect if the pilots are successful and Ettan Snuff eventually joins the Swedish Match US moist snuff brand portfolio, smaller chillers or even unchilled product displays will be added to keep retailers happy. Despite Reynolds' hold over their retailers with their cigarette and other tobacco product brands, I am not surprised when I walk into random convenience stores and find the smaller Camel SNUS chiller on the shelf....unplugged.
The pilot stores are supplied with free Prismasters to distribute to Ettan Snuff buyers, door clings, product literature, and other typical point of sale items. Print and other mass-market advertising will not be used during Phase 1 of the Vitality Tests.
The Ettan Snuff pilot was launched in the three test markets on May 2nd 2011. Swedish Match is relying to a large degree on consumer intercepts at the point of sale for product feedback. I interviewed Mr. Ackerman a week later so not a lot of data concerning consumer reaction was or could be expected to be available. None the less, initial feedback was very positive.
In Pittsburgh, a positive buzz was already beginning to translate into word-of-mouth interest. In Portland where store replenishment orders were established at 2 weeks, by Day 5 of the pilot the replenishment time had already been cut in half to 1 week. Boise dippers were pretty excited too.
Even after weeding out the competitors having their sales reps buying Ettan Snuff for the home office, very early numbers are very positive. Phase 1 of the field testing is expected to run until the end of the year. I'll be checking in with Joe now and again for updates.
What is Ettan Moist Snuff?
During Phase 1, Ettan Moist Snuff will be offered in two versions: loose and in pouch form. The "Best By" dates from manufacture are 14 weeks out for the loose version and 20 weeks out for the pouch version.
Each can of loose will contain 1.59 oz of snuff. For those used to the metric scale when measuring loose snuff, that is 45 grams. Like all Swedish Match premium loose snus/snuff offerings, the cans are traditional cardboard made at the factory with plastic lids.
The pouch snuff version will contain 24 pouches containing approximately 1 gram of snuff per pouch in plastic cans.
The Ettan Snuff products are made to the identical GothiaTek standards , are packaged in the same sized cans, made at the same Gothenburg Sweden factory, and share the identical Ettan recipe with Ettan Lös and Ettan Original Portion snus. Wait....does that mean Ettan Snuff and Ettan Snus are effectively the same product? Yes..and no.
At the beginning of my interview with Joe Ackerman, I asked him how the Ettan Brand Manager in Stockholm was convinced to allow his sacred brand to be used on an American moist snuff product? Ettan snus and UST's Copenhagen moist snuff may both have been founded in 1822, but the similarities especially in regard to product quality and reduced harm end there too. A few years later Ettan became the first steam pasteurized snus/snuff on the planet, a process used by almost all Swedish snus manufacturers to this day.
Covering all brands, American moist snuff is still primarily a fermented product with lots of sugar. In the 40 years Swedish snus has been regulated under the Swedish Food Act, there is not one documented case of tooth loss or oral cancer from using steam pasteurized Swedish snus. A few years ago, the Swedish Government even stopped requiring their snus manufacturers to print the Swedish mouth cancer warnings on the cans. Did someone hold a gun to the Ettan Brand Manager's head or threaten his family?
"No", Ackerman replied. "The literal word "snus" translates to "snuff" so there wasn't an issue."
Oh...I see. While that may be true, I still thought they would need to break a few fingers or force-feed the Ettan Brand Manager mass quantities of Marlboro Snus/Skoal Snus for a few hours before he would agree. Apparently not the case. Too bad; my version would have made for a much more exciting narrative.
To the original question, is Ettan Snuff a Natural flavored Moist Snuff product? Yes, and a great tasting one dippers lucky enough to live in a pilot market can discover for themselves. In Pittsburgh, Ettan Snuff is available at select GetGo and CoGo locations.
In Boise, you can find Ettan Snuff at your local Big Smoke and Jackson's. I have no idea what a Plaid Pantry is, but if you dip and live in Portland, I'm sure you do. You can find your Ettan Snuff experience by the pinch or the pouch at select Plaid Pantry locations in your fine city. Don't forget your spit cup!
Is Ettan Snuff really Ettan Snus? Ettan Original Portion and Lös Snus are not sold over the counter in the US. But if you pop a portion or a prilla of Ettan Snuff under your upper lip, the only way you'll be able to tell the difference between Ettan Snus and Ettan Snuff is by peeking at the can graphics....literally. When it comes to Ettan, snuff and snus are just different translations of a word. Ettan is Ettan. If you live in a pilot market, General isn't the only Swedish Match snus brand you can now buy over the counter.
When can I buy Ettan Snuff at a store near me?
Hard to say at this point. This is a Vitality Test; not a National Product Launch. As I mentioned earlier, Phase 1 of the Ettan Snuff pilot is projected to run until the end of 2011. After evaluating the results, Swedish Match will make the decision whether or not to move to Phase 2.
Ettan Snuff Phase 2 will involve expanding the test markets (I've already made my request for Dallas/Fort Worth), expanding the marketing options to include mass media, and making any changes or modifications based on the Phase 1 pilot results.
Beyond that, one could suppose that either a Phase 3 or a National Product Rollout would occur.....unless FDA has banned the use of lips by then.
Until then, you can always buy Ettan Snus at your favorite internet Snus Store.....unless ATF wipes us out with cruise missiles. If you're a natural dip lover, ignore the word snus and lower lip it as always and spit responsibly. If you're a traditional snus lover, it's snus for God's sake. You know what to do with it!. Be neat and use the catch lid for your used portions.
In either case, enjoy! Snuff or Snus, Ettan is a treat you owe yourself...over and over again.
At an Undisclosed Location
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org