Swedish Match creates targeted XRANGE Snus
The important thing for especially American snusers to realize is that the XRANGE (XR) brand strategy is designed primarily for the Swedish market. This is a marketing and pricing battle which will be fought in Swedish and Scandinavian retail snus chillers. Internet snus shoppers like us just luck out.
Swedish snus can be broadly broken down into three categories: Premium, Value, and a consumer overlap between the first two.
Over the last few years, the value (bargain) brands have been making inroads into the Swedish consumer snus market. This is not due to quality but due to price. With Sweden insanely increasing the snus tax at every opportunity; most recently 1 Jan 2015, the cost of snus in Sweden continues to rise.
As Swedish Match has not wavered from their very high and detailed GothiaTek quality standards in either their premium or value brands, this has put them at a competitive price disadvantage against other value brand snuses.
As outlined by Swedish Match in this Reuters article, this situation has caused a drop in profits for SMAB as they attempt to remain competitively priced while the ever-higher Swedish snus taxes are slowing demand for snus...at the expensive of increasing cigarette consumption in Sweden through lower taxation of cigarettes.
What??? Why would Stockholm do that?
The sad truth is that Swedish government is afraid to raise the cigarette tax more than a little since they fear it will increase the black market for cigarettes in Sweden.
Since snus is made in Sweden and taxed at the manufacturing level as well as at the retail level, they aren't worried about a Swedish snus black market.
Thus the health of Swedes suffer at the expense of almighty and hypocritical Big Government afraid of losing, of all things, cigarette tax revenue.
Instead of fighting ferociously to lift an outdated EU Snus Ban which never should have existed in the first place; instead of giving EU smokers an opportunity to enjoy the reduced tobacco harm "Swedish Experience" snus offers; the Swedish government has failed over and over again for decades to have the punitive snus ban removed.
As long as Swedes can have snus (and the government can tax it extortionately at will), then why bother? Like most zero-sum theory politicians, they fail to take into account the additional tax money from snus manufacturers an open EU snus market of 150MM+ smokers could bring in.
If the Swedish snus tax wasn't so exorbitant, there wouldn't be a need for an XRANGE strategy.
All portion snus pouches would once again contain one gram gram of snus and there would be 24 of them to a can. Loose snus cans would return to their former 50 grams per can....and Swedish snus users could afford to buy them for less than a pack of cigarettes!
There isn't world peace and aren't any unicorns either, so Swedish Match must play on the field of Swedish snus reality. Today, this brings us XRANGE.
The XRANGE Snus Strategy
Swedish Match has been experimenting with different snuses under their various brand names to target the roughly 16% to 17% of current Swedish snus users who regularly use a mix of premium and value brand snuses.
They have now pulled five of these proof of concept snuses together and launched them today as XRANGE.
Four of the first XRANGE snuses are re-branded variations of the very popular General Tailored White Portion, General Long Portion, Goteborg's Rape' Slim Portion, and Catch Pure Mint Medium Slim Portion snus. General Slim Large White Strong Portion is the new higher nicotine XRANGE snus to round out the line.
How much Swedish Match varied the recipes for the XRANGE products for better or for worse from their predecessors is still an open question.
For example, one of the bullet points describing both General Tailored White and Goteborg's Rape' Slim Portion snus was how much more comfortable the portions felt in the mouth because of an ingredient Swedish Match called NATUFIBE®
Dry on the surface and less runny for a fresh feeling, NATUFIBE® is a natural material consisting of one type of plant fiber which is mixed with tobacco meal for improved softness.
NATUFIBE® worked. The main reason Tailored White and GR' Slim are so popular is because of the soft mouth feel. In the Official Swedish Match XRANGE presentation, I noticed there was no mention at all of NATUFIBE®.
I reached out to Swedish Match last week and eCommerce Manager Peter Hagberg confirmed NATUFIBE® was not used in any of the new XRANGE products.
Back to the Official XRANGE Presentation, I noticed that "plant fiber" was listed in the ingredients list. As NATUFIBE® is (or was) "plant fiber", this begs the question: what is being used as a filler in the tobacco mix now and is it as comfortable in the mouth as NATUFIBE® was?
I've held back a couple cans of General Tailored White and GR' Slim portion to compare gum to gum softness with their XRANGE replacements.
If you wish to conduct this experiment with your own gums, I'd advise adding a can or two of each to your first XRANGE order... and quickly.
In order to avoid confusion, Swedish Match has discontinued General Tailored White, General Long Original, General Classic White Mini Strong, Onico Enbär, Göteborgs Rapé White Slim Large, and Catch Pure Mint Medium Slim.
The only remaining stock, if any, of the discontinued snuses is what eStores have in stock. Once that's all gone, that's it.
As time goes by, the XRANGE snuses will expand with new offerings to encourage value priced snus users to take a small jump up in price (or premium users to take a price step down) for significantly better quality than value snuses offer.
The initial XRANGE snus release as pictured below consists of XRANGE General Slim Large Portion snus, XRANGE General Slim Large White Portion snus, XRANGE General Slim Large White Strong Portion snus, XRANGE Catch Slim Large White Mint Portion snus, and XRANGE Göteborgs Rapé Slim Large White Portion snus.
The XR can graphics are bold and designed to be. XRANGE snus is designed to visually dominate a retail Swedish Match snus chiller and does it quite well. This concept was first tried with the General G.3 brand.
Especially in dark markets like Norway where snus is hidden from view and only seen for a few moments when the store clerk opens the cabinet, the bold design instantly draws the eye...and sales.
XR brand snuses are all slim, slow drip portions; a format Swedish Match pioneered with the first The LAB snuses and continues to this day with the General G.3 series snuses. Swedish Match does these types of portions better than anyone else, in my opinion.
XRANGE branded snus offers Premium snus quality and taste but at a more attractive price to Swedish snus consumers.
For Americans and others whose currency is tied to the strong US dollar, we are already enjoying snus prices lower than we've seen in years. XRANGE will join that price party. At today's exchange rates all the XRANGE snuses are priced less than 3 USD/can (at least at the SnusCentral.com Snus Shop)
Based on the snuses XRANGE is replacing in the Swedish Match catalog, there are some other premium and value snus manufacturers out there in particular which are going to have quite the challenge competing against XRANGE snus.
Best Regards/Bästa hälsningar/Med venlig hilsen,
Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org