Latching on to his last sentence, I asked "Speaking of liking, V2 has always been quite the risk-taker when it comes to trying different flavors that are not found anywhere else. Where does your flavor inspiration come from?
"Well", Patrick responded, "we just think it is fun to try and develop these flavors. Finding something unique in this market is what makes V2 stand out." Marc Vogel added "Very true. We also love the input and ideas we get from our consumers which leads us to visits with the flavor factories to see what we can come up with."
My mind blanked again. I blurted out "Wait a minute! I think I just figured it out... Patrick Vogel and Marc Vogel... The Vogel brothers. Am I on to something here?" Patrick patiently explained "Yes. Our last name is Vogel, thus the name V2."
Finally the alcoholic haze was clearing from my brain. "So, how exactly did you guys get involved with making snus? Marc took this question first. "I used to work for Fiedler & Lundgren where I helped them start a production factory back in 2003, so I knew how to make the snus." Patrick added "And I have always had a background in sales and export sales, so I knew how to sell the snus.”
So basically between the two of you, you had the experience and the know-how to start your own company. Patrick pounded the table, "Exactly! So we decided to try our hand at snus, and V2 is what became of it!"
So how long have you guys been making snus? Marc replied "Well, I have been making snus for many years, but only for about 3 years or so as V2."
Now that I had set both Patrick and Marc at ease, I knew this was the time to come out swinging with the hard-ball questions! I smiled sweetly and asked .... If there were to be a war between Pirates and Ninjas, who would win? Patrick fielded this one; "Hmmm... That is a tough question. I think I would have to go with Pirates. They are more like the Danish Vikings who had conquered large parts of Europe around the years 800-900."
Interesting although a little disconcerting that Patrick not only answered quickly, but that Marc had written the Wikipedia Danish Viking link from memory and passed it to me while Patrick was answering. I decided to go for broke: "With V2 being located in Denmark, you might be able to put a rumor to rest". Both Patrick's and Marc's eyes narrowed. "What rumor is THAT?", Patrick asked softly.
Here goes nothing.......I have heard rumors that there are rogue Vikings that still reside in the mountains and kill people with guitars. Is there any truth to this? You could have cut the silence with a knife! Patrick and Marc exchanged glances and Patrick finally said "Well... The Danish Vikings were all over Europe, and they invaded many villages. Maybe they were looking for snus?" Marc quickly added "Yeah, the Vikings only liked snus and women. I don't think they were too involved with music." They were hiding something so I asked again "So it is safe to say that there aren't any guitar-wielding Vikings hiding in the mountains?" Patrick quickly replied "Nope. Just Vikings in search of snus and woman." Hmmm. That sounds just like me! Time to get back to business.
When you guys started V2, how many people worked for you? Marc laughed "Only us. I made the snus and Patrick sold it". Humbly stating a fact known world-wide, I followed up with "V2 has been my favorite snus since I started using it years ago. I must have just started with snus shortly after V2 began production. One thing I have noticed is that your products have gone through many changes and improvements. What drives these changes?"
Patrick's face grew serious, but his eyes sparkled. "We work very closely with both our suppliers and consumers. We are such a small company that consumer feedback is a very big driving force in our product development. When we are trying something new, we use a tasting panel made up of people from all over the world. We take each users review and then fine-tune the finished product so that it is exactly what a mixed group of people agreed on."
Now I was getting really excited! That is really cool! This industry seems to be dominated by these monster corporations who just put something on the market and expect people to like it. V2 has a bold reputation of being very consumer-driven. How do you find the time to be so involved with your customers? "Marc and I prioritize this very high. It is the consumer that must purchase and enjoy our products, so it is very important that we take time to stay close with our customers."
That is such a breath of fresh air! Nowadays, customer service seems to be such a lost art. One thing I have noticed about V2 is that even with the prices of tobacco, taxes, etc, on the rise, you manage to keep selling such great products at low cost. How is this possible? "We have invested heavily in machinery that makes production very efficient. We also spend very little on marketing. At V2, it is thought to be better to offer quality products at a low cost, rather than to have the consumer have to pay an inflated cost to cover our marketing."
With the addition of all this new machinery, I understand that your business has grown quite a bit. With the economy in a world-wide down-turn, you guys are booming! Marc smiled "We are! Even with the financial crisis, we have employed 10 additional employees to produce snus since June of 2009."
So what do the Vogel's attribute their current success to? "Well, the new machinery is a big part of it. It has allowed us to expand our product line quite a bit. We have utilized quite a bit of consumer input on product development , and I think that we have a very good feel for what the customer enjoys. We will be adding even more machinery in early 2010, so things are still moving forward."
So do you see more growth coming for V2 and its employee base? Marc replied "We never know. As we say: "Hope for the best, expect the worst".
"A very good rule to operate by", I replied to show off my business savvy before my next loaded question, "So if you do continue to expand, could I move to Denmark and get a job with you?" Without batting an eye, Patrick returned, "Sure! But only if you want to live among "The happiest people on earth" according to a recent study." Before Patrick had even finished answering, Marc had written the URL to the study on a piece of paper and passed it to me. How does Marc DO that?
Taking the paper from Marc, I laughed and said "I think I could handle that! So here is a zinger for you: If there were a polar bear stranded on a melting iceberg, what kind of snus would it use?
Patrick spit out his Offroad Wintergreen and choked out "HA! I have never hears of a snusing bear, but if that were the case, I think it would like the cool flavor and kick of Thunder Frosted."
A very good point, I had to admit. So what are your favorite snus varieties? Marc jumped in with "My favorite is definitely Thunder Frosted!" Turning to Patrick, I asked "and you?" He replied "Well, my "old-faithful" would be Offroad Wintergreen, but I am also very fond of Thunder Frosted and Thunder Berry which is still in development."
I nodded in agreement. I had been lucky enough to help test the Thunder Berry, and I have to say this it will most definitely become a staple in my usage. Speaking of new products, we have seen several new snus choices from V2 as of late. Mini portions, Strong Portions, Strong loose, White portions... Can you tell me if we will be seeing anything else coming out of the V2 factory in the near future?
"Well, If I said "No", you wouldn't believe me", Patrick chuckled. "I think we will be testing some new products in the beginning of 2010." That got my attention! Oh really? Do tell! "We are planning some new products that will be completely new with... Oh crap, I just realized what time it is! I have to get going!" Very convenient time to look at your watch, Patrick! I let him slide though.
Well OK then! I will just wait for these new "Mystery" products with bated breath! Patrick, Marc, thank you both very much for taking the time to chat with me. I, as well as many other V2 fans around the world are very glad that you took this time out for us. I think I can speak for all of us (hell, I know I can! I’m Xobeloot, The Phantom Menace! ) when I say that snus just wouldn't be the same without the unique options that you provide us with.
Not quite sure where he is...
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org