Andrew Romeo - An Insider's Perspective

Andrew Romeo is a long-time veteren of the snus and associated industries.  A New York native, Andy has worked throughout Europe and is currently building distribution networks in Russia.

Rumors, articles and independently confirmed facts underline the reality that Taboca AS, based in Oslo, Norway, and with production in Sweden on Gotland, has gone through a management overhaul.

Andrew Romeo; before he became a famous author, was Toboca Acting MD for ScandinaviaI was acting MD, Scandinavia at Taboca from January 2007 until June, 2008, and have great admiration for the founding team.  Tenacity, creativity, honesty, perspicacity, and the ability to turn on a dime were in abundance during my time with the Company.  They had to be.  Coming into a market dominated by Swedish Match and the large cigarette companies covetous of their own small snus market-shares, an independent upstart was hardly welcome.

But Taboca, founded in 2004 by Norwegian entrepreneurs Tom Ruud and Reinhard Rye,  came into the market with licenses to produce, as snus,  Montecristo and Romeo yThe Founders of Taboca Julieta, two iconic Cuban cigar brands belonging to Habanos SA.  With an ex-Skruf Factory Director and a factory full of ex-Gotland staff, and US management, Taboca came onto the Scandinavian market in 2005 with the first true super-premium snus products:  The soft-painted metal cans, and perfectly flavored snus including Cuban tobacco are aspirational sensations amongst moneyed Swedes and some Norwegians.  In early 2007, it was decided to launch Taboca snus with no Cuban content as a price/value product, while keeping it in a metal can (the Company's calling card, so to speak), and the brand has grown to include loose and strong mini-portions.

In the US, Taboca was confronted by Philip Morris for the use of a name which was similar to one they were testing as a US snus at the time. In mid-2007, the issue was settled amicably, and US management changed Taboca USA to Nordic American Smokeless, going forward with plans to launch smokeless products in the US, and leveraging its Scandinavian expertise.

Thursday, 08 October 2009 11:39

THE SLEEPING GIANT. IMPERIAL TOBACCO

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Swedish snus consumers in the United States are educated consumers.  They have to be.  They are bombarded with locally available products called “snus” which are geared toward current smokers with EDITORS NOTE: this Skruf Ad poster is pure pandering and not essential to Andrew's article.numbed taste-buds, and regularly have their favorite products removed from their Internet shopping carts due to murky inter-company territorial policies.

Snus consumers want to know. About companies and trends.  About flavors and ingredients, nicotine levels, pH, TSNAs, can materials, and the people who make it.

In that spirit, I will present here on SnusCentral, from time to time, profiles of the players involved, and specifically look at their treatment of snus as a part of their tobacco portfolios.

To start, I have chosen an unlikely subject:  UK's Imperial Tobacco, owners of Skruf in southern Sweden.  Skruf was marketed by its founding partners as a sexy alternative to Swedish Match's black cans in the early part of the decade, with magazine ads showing a round can shape in the back pocket of a shapely woman's jeans.  Imperial Tobacco purchased the company in stages, and now fully owns it.  Imperial is poised today to make an impact on the turbulent US market.  They are truly Big Tobacco, and they are coming.  Here is how I see it.

Andrew Adam NewmanToday, Andrew Adam Newman, an Advertising/Marketing columnist for the New York Times, published an article, A Different Camel is Back in the Glossies .

What is remarkable is that the New York Times, well known for editorializing Big Tobacco to the cleaners on a regular basis,  has painted a fair and balanced look at whether or not cigarette branded snus products in the US are meant as reduced-harm products or complementary products to cigarettes.

 

Sunday, 13 September 2009 14:42

Beware 'The Green Seal' of Quality

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The US government tells us that snus "is not a safe alternative to cigarettes."  It is. Most definitely.Real Data; Real Science; 40 years in the making.Cigarettes and Swedish Snus are NOT created Equal.

Then they say that snus "may cause mouth cancer."  When has it before?  Statistically speaking, never.

Then, we hear that snus "may cause gum disease and tooth loss."  So may thousands of over-sugared products on the market today. Maybe overly sweet US snus does as well. Because of added sugar.  Not Swedish snus.

US Tobacco companies, forced to place lame but accurate warnings on cigarette packs these past three decades, are now forced to lie about their snus products right on the label.  The Swedes and the Norwegians removed the "cancer" warnings from snus several years ago when they realized no one was getting cancer from the product.  They mention in their warnings that the product is addictive.  It is.  Most definitely.  But the American government doesn't mandate that snus show that little fact.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009 16:44

Have Cigarette Brands Failed as Snus Brands?

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The tobacco industry is one of having one's ducks in a row while jumping through hoops.  The one constant, as it is in any mega-corporate environment, is that a bad idea, if well-placed within the organization, can turn into company policy.  Worse yet, it can turn into a brand, or affect a brand's performance.  This can happen despite repeated research, and is often justified by economic models which can take something fuzzy like "brand equity" and quantify it into a five-year marketing plan.

The snus business is awash in fiction paraded as fact, both in terms of what has occurred since Sweden's smaller independent snus companies were gobbled up by Big Tobacco.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009 08:45

Big Tobacco's Advertising 'WORK-AROUNDS'

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In an atmosphere of increasing regulation of tobacco companies, it has become common for them to stretch laws, or work around them in order to advertise their products to adult consumers.

The darkening markets of Europe have made communication increasingly difficult, and while some new regulations have no effect whatsoever on consumption (large, or pictorial health warnings, tar and nicotine limits, ending the use of strength descriptors such as “lights,” etc.), those that limit brand communication can be annoyingly effective.  Here are some laws I have encountered, and the ways tobacco companies have creatively (or accidentally) shimmied around them.

Did the Soviet Union have a Tobacco Czar in 1937?Here is a great example of how Big Tobacco loves the Press.  Though this one was a bit obvious, keen observers should begin watching for more articles like this.  It's like the old art of "Kremlinology."  Read between the lines, and watch where the leaders are standing on the podium.

Here's one about how tobacco companies' 'high hopes' of helping smokers quit with snus may be dashed due to the results of an 'authoratative' study.

In this morning's Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, there is an article by David Ress called "Study: New products may not curb smokers' cravings."

It is quite clear that US Big Tobacco is interested in keeping smokers hooked on cigarettes.  I have discussed this in a previous article.  In a nutshell:  They want you to smoke, but also are offering snus products for when you can't due to local laws, restrictions, or out of consideration for others. "Your cigarettes may get jealous" according to Camel SNUS's website.

Now, with the FDA on board, and snus poised to be submitted under the 'Reduced Exposure' categorization, what a great time for a paper in PM's hometown to say snus is already a failure in that category?  Why?  Smokers can only be satisfied by smoking!

The study cited, conducted by a team of specialists from Virginia Commonwealth University, and funded by Philip Morris is linked in the article.  Subject a group of smokers to an overnight of

Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:33

THE GHOST OF “OLD JOE CAMEL”

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Joe Camel before he became extinct.Just what happened to Joe Camel?

Joe Camel celebrates the brand's 75th anniversary. The anti-tobacco book-burners have made it difficult to get accurate information on exactly when he was created.  An early form of Joe Camel appeared in a 1963 poster so he as at least that old.

Current history states that RJR Nabisco apparently grabbed “New Joe” Camel off of some French, and then-international ads from the late 1970s as a way to commemorate the brand’s 75th anniversary worldwide in 1988.

“Old Joe” has been strutting his ‘stuff’on the Camel packs since 1913. All legal. Traditional CPG marketing.

In 1991, it was recognized by the Journal of the American Medical Association that more American five and six-year olds knew Joe Camel than knew Fred Flintstone and Mickey Mouse.

They didn’t evaluate “Wacky Racers,” “Davey and Goliath,” or “Tennessee Tuxedo,” because, if they had, they would have been caught assuming that kids born in the mid 1980’s knew lots about cartoon characters from the ‘30s and the late ‘60s. They didn't.

Mickey was fresh off a 30-year creative hiatus, and Fred and Barney were canceled for good in 1966. And guess who the Flintstones’ target audience was back then? Not kids.  Check out this commercial flashback of the past.

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