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.I 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 y 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.
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 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.
Today, 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.
The US government tells us that snus "is not a safe alternative to cigarettes." It is. Most definitely.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This article is not about tobacco. It is not about regulation, Big Pharma, flavors, or Internet trafficking of legal tobacco products. It's about Sweden. In July.
Today, the 19th of June, is the beginning of "Midsummer," which is terribly important to the Swedes, so I thought I'd inform the reader about one of their myriad of seasonal rituals. And expound on what happens afterwards from an American's perspective.
No and Yes.
One thing must remain clear. Big Tobacco wants its legal consumers to smoke as many cigarettes as possible. The bulk of their marketing, where it is allowed around the world, is dedicated to "YAS," Young Adult Smokers, who 'party smoke' when they go out, or have a few drinks. The marketing emphasizes night-life and independence, blah-blah-blah.
Yet, "party-smoking" is going the way of the dodo all over Europe and North America. So are many other opportunities to smoke. Bars, restaurants, workplaces, one's own home if there are children or a hostile co-habitant. Hell, the Poles tried to ban smoking in parks and at bus stops.
Some eating and drinking institutions manage to develop outdoor seating alternatives for smokers. Sweden and Norway almost totally reversed the effect of their bans by making their summer seating year-round with huge heat-lamps and blankets. One bar in Ireland, it was said, removed it's roof so that patrons could smoke 'in' the bar.
I always track the consumer and expert reviews of all the new types of snus which hit the market both here on SnusCENTRAL, and on other snus related forums inhabited by non-Swedes.
This is the new and growing Internet-shop generation. This generation seeks out flavors and strength, and the reviews resemble those one would see of fine wines, discussing bouquet, flavor intensity and decay, and the proper accompanying beverage. Debates rage: "What is bergamot?" "Why does the fig note taste like lemon?" (One of my favorites about Taboca snus).
It's well known that all big tobacco players are researching non-tobacco nicotine delivery systems. Gum and patch manufacturers, with their 12-week dependency regime products will soon have to compete with similar products that provide "the spike" vs. theirs, which simply frustrate the nicotine addict by under-delivering low, steady levels of nicotine.Website Tobaccofreekids.org, most likely an anti tobacco, pro-pharma site, reads like a Fox News Cigarette Fanboy's dream. Loads of official cig/dip company visuals, tar and nic content info, and the latest articles from around the world. It can also be unintentionally hilarious.One example, a critique of "Camel No.9" describes the marketing campaign, implying that it evokes "Chanel No. 5" and stilettos, and thus attracts female minors who read Vogue and Marie Claire. Dude? Where's my demographic? Whatever happened to Pokemon?The one ‘bright’ spot for TFK.org is encouragement of the use of the gums and patches with their “30-80% success rates over placebos.”
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