Monday, 27 August 2012 15:28

Swedish Match: New Snus, Delisted Snus, and Legal Issues

Written by Larry Waters
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There is lots of news to report about Swedish Match this month running the gamut from exciting to unfortunate to infuriating.

On the good side, we have two new and long awaited snuses to talk about; one from Lab Series and one from Nick and Johnny. Swedish Match is also bringing back a popular Catch Collection snus and a new can design is being unveiled for most of the General snuses.

On the sad side, we will be saying goodbye to one of the General snus products; at least until 2013 or perhaps forever.

On the legal front, Swedish Match Distribution is trying to enforce a labelling standard for the other manufacturer's Swedish snuses they distribute in Sweden. This is not sitting well with JTI Sweden and Skruf; not at all.

Nick and Johnny Black Tarmac Xtra Strong Licorice Portion Snus

Nick-and-Johnny-Black-TarmacCSwedish Match has been engaged in a complete remake of the Nick and Johnny snus line since 2010. It began with repacking existing N&J products and then moved on to new flavors with Crushed Ice Xtra Strong and Radical Red Xtra Strong Chili portion. Radical Red has even become part of my personal rotation as I enjoy it so much.

Now enter Nick and Johnny Black Tarmac Xtra Strong Licorice Portion Snus. Each can will contain 20 portions each weighing 1.1 grams, for a total weight of 22 grams per can. The nicotine level is approximately 15.4mg/portion. If Radical Red is any example, what Swedish Match calls 15.4mg/portion feels like 18mg to 20mg; at least to me.

The name of this snus is certainly worth commenting on. In English, it would refer to a stretch of asphalt which aircraft park on. Unless this snus was conceived of while Swedish Match snus designers were sitting on an airplane waiting to take off, I'm sure it has a completely different meaning in Swedish. Either way, it is a stand-out name which will which will certainly stick in consumers minds. Good job either way.

After stumbling onto Romeo y Julietta portion snus on my first trip to Sweden, I discovered I liked licorice snus. In my current rotation, the new Conny Andersson version of Oden's Original Licorice Portion snus is my favorite regular strength licorice snus at 9mg/g nicotine. I have high hopes for Nick and Johnny Black Tarmac filling my Xtra Strong licorice snus vacancy. It is expected to be available for sale Week 40.

General Snus: a New Look and Goodbye to General Green Harvest

Looking good for 2012:  General SnusSwedish Match has decided to redesign the can graphics for General Snus sold in Sweden and assumably through internet Snus eStores. The changes will not affect the General Long Series or General ONYX (oh how we miss you!).

The intent is to modernize and present a more unified appearance for the General brand. These changes will only apply to General snus round can products.

Back in February at the New York Snus Summit, we learned that General Green Harvest White Portion snus would cease production June/July. We now know that distribution of Green Harvest will cease on Week 40.

General Green Harvest was a very popular snus but fell victim to its own success. Green Harvest was and is the only certified organic and pesticide-free snus on the market. Unfortunately, most tobacco farmers are more concerned with achieving maximum yield per acre of which you really can't blame them.

General Green Harvest Snus bites the dustGreen Harvest was a blend of a half dozen or so pesticide free tobaccos. A large source was from Amish farmers in Pennsylvania..so large in fact that Swedish Match pretty much cleaned them out. It will take time for the Amish tobacco farmers to regrow their tobacco stocks.

An unexpected setback for Green Harvest was Brazil suddenly deciding to go back to using pesticides. Brazilian tobacco was also a critical component of General Green Harvest.

Originally, we were told Green Harvest would return next year once sufficient quantities of qualifying tobacco was available. This was before Conny Andersson, renowned tobacco expert, and Swedish Match parted ways. The latest announcement on Green Harvest states it is Discontinued which is a more permanent statement than On Hiatus.  Time will tell.

General Green Harvest fans or those looking for a collectors item would be advised to purchase some Green Harvest sooner than later.

Lab Series 07 Extra Strong and the return of Catch Collection Lafayette White Mini Portion

The numbers keep climbing:  Lab Series 07!Swedish Match Lab Series 07 Extra Strong White Portion snus was released less than two weeks ago. It is essentially the White Portion version of Lab Series 06 Extra Strong wet portion snus. For those new to snus, during the production process, wet/original/regular portions receive an extra few drops of water before they are canned. White portions do not, which makes the pouches appear white in color.

Neither method is better or worse than the other. The difference generally speaking is in the amount of time it takes for the portion to start running, the duration of the flavor, and the intensity of the flavor. I use and enjoy both types depending on the snus in question. Some, like Ettan, I like the white portion and the original portion. Others, like General Long Extra Strong, I prefer the wet portion over the white portion version. In the end, it's all up to your tastes.

Back on topic, the Lab Series is targeted towards the snus market in Norway although many in the US also enjoy it and the high nicotine levels it contains.

A can of 07 contains 24 portions; 0.9 grams each. The nicotine level is rated at 16.2mg/portion. Like many snus consumers, I'm still waiting for the mysterious Lab Series 03 and 04; both of which numbers were skipped over. I'm sure there is a good historical reason in Sweden for this; that or marketing experienced a typing error when sending over the graphics requirements. I have no idea.

April's Catch Collection Lafayette Street mini portion snus is also making a comeback due to popular demand. It just became available today.

Swedish Match Distribution charged by JTI and Skruf with unfair business practices

There is a division of Swedish Match most Americans have no knowledge or reason to have knowledge of: Swedish Match Distribution (SMD). In Sweden, virtually all of the snus regardless of manufacturer is distributed to the retail stores in Sweden by SMD.

This has not pleased the other manufacturers but Swedish Match effectively inherited distribution along with their brands when the last Swedish Tobacco Monopoly was broken up. Since that time, SMD has done everything it could to solidify and grow its distribution network.

If you look at snus chillers in any Swedish store (all snus sold in Sweden is refrigerated), you will usually find the Swedish Match products have prime display placement while other brands are relegated to the bottom of the chiller or even behind other brands. For years, the sales reps for the other manufacturers and SMD reps have played a game of 'moving the snus'. Kind of fun, actually.

A Taboca employee, for example, would move their products up to a prime position in the chiller. The next time the SMD rep visited, those cans would go back to obscurity. Snus manufacturers need SMD in the Swedish retail market, don't like it but can't do much about it.

As reported in a recent article in di.se, snus manufacturers JTI Sweden and Skruf have filed a complaint against snus giant Swedish Match with the Swedish Competition Authority. The reason is that Swedish Match would impose uniform signs in their snus fridges.

JTI Sweden (Camel, LD and Gustavus snus) and Skruf (Skruf, Knox snus) believe that Swedish Match is abusing its dominant position when the company requires other snus manufacturers to produce a label that follows a standardized style that Swedish Match has developed.

If snus manufacturers do not do this, Swedish Match reserves the right to develop standardized labels and impose them on the other manufacturers.

Both JTI Sweden and Skruf correctly believe it will lead to a deterioration of the competitive situation for them and now wants the Swedish Competition Authority to put a stop to the label plans.

In the past, Swedish Match and their lawyers have not been shy about suing other snus manufacturers for using round snus cans, having stars on their snus cans, and intentionally designing labeling which could "confuse" the consumer into thinking these products were made by Swedish Match.

I certainly don't begrudge Swedish Match for trying. Any legal way to impede competitors has always been a part of good business.

Look at the Apple v Samsung lawsuit which just concluded in California. Many of Apple's claims that they owned rectangles and touchscreens were laughable. As to the similarities in the appearance of the OS, blame Google for their design of Android, not Samsung who chose to use it.  Regardless, Apple won.

Samsung can easily absorb the billion USD fine. The future of Samsung wireless phones and tablets in the United States is suddenly very unclear however, and not a loss Samsung (or the Google Android OS) can absorb quite so easily.

Here is what I don't understand: Why aren't Swedish Match, JTI, Skruf/Imperial Tobacco, the Swedish Government, the Danish Government, and all the other snus manufacturers putting all their legal efforts into overturning the EU Snus Ban?

Why aren't they fighting tooth and nail in Brussels? Cultural considerations aside, the measured/tepid response of "Here is our scientific data on snus. Please consider it when deliberating the Snus Ban" is just unacceptable.

It's time for diplomacy to end and the ruthless business tactics all involved have employed at one time or another to replace it. There was once a Swedish Empire. That didn't happen because Sweden nicely asked the other countries to surrender. Same for the Danish Empire. Screw the French; it was a fluke they had an empire in the first place and they ended up losing it in the end as usual.

It is clearly time for the politics of tobacco to end and the profits of Big Pharma to become irrelevant to the argument. It is time the Public Health take center stage based on true science and factual information. It's time to end business as usual; at least until the Snus Ban has been done away with. The clock is ticking towards the new EU TPD.

Enjoy your REAL Snus,Office of the Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States

LARRY WATERS

Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org

 

Read 4901 times Last modified on Friday, 13 December 2013 23:47

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