Thursday, 21 August 2014 01:32

Natufibe by Swedish Match; Snus Boon or Snake Oil?

Written by Mick Hellwig
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When Swedish Match AB launched General Tailored White Portion Snus in April of 2013, the main talking point was something new added to the snus:  NATUFIBE®

It all started with one question. The answer to which led me deeper and deeper into a darkened, nuanced world in which translating Swedish to American and learning more about snus manufacturing kept leading to more questions. Here are the high points of what I’ve learned.
 
The main reason I embarked on this quest was to correct the record. Natufibe has been reported as part of the portion material. I wasn’t sure that was correct and it kept gnawing at me until I got off my butt, or more accurately got on my butt, in front of my computer, and started digging .....

Of Natufiber and Rabbit holes

When I started down the path of discovery I was introduced a lovely young lady from Swedish Match, whom I was told, would facilitate my NATUFIBE®  journey.  Most of this would be translating Swedish marketing points to English and being a conduit between the scientist types at SM and my questions.

Maja Dahlberg is her name and she was incredibly patient with me.  Maja returned emails as quickly as she could get answers. There were a lot of emails.
 
What is Natufibe?  This was my original question.  It was introduced to we American bloggers at a snus summit in early 2013. I had heard something slightly different than my companions and was a bit confused as to what exactly Natufibe is.

Here is the first response I received:

General Tailored White Portion was the first product using NatufibeWe launched NATUFIBE® with our product General Tailored in 2013. NATUFIBE® is a natural material consisting of plant-fiber, approved by the national food administration, which is mixed with tobacco-meal to give the product improved features – a softer pouch and an optimized fit.

Parts from the tobacco-stalked is used in the traditional Swedish snus to get the desirable consistency. A certain amount of tobacco meal is replaced by plant fiber in our NATUFIBE® technology, and thereby decreasing the proportion of stalk
.
NATUFIBE® make it possible for us to offer our consumers a different, and refined, experience with a softer bag and thereby an optimized fit.

As you can see it talks of softer pouch, but also of replacing tobacco stalk in the tobacco meal. Wait…WHAT?  To an American ear these sound like two different things.

To us the pouch is the actual bag material; the tobacco meal (I’ll get to “tobacco-meal” shortly.) is what is in the pouch.  Here is the source of my original confusion.

That is also almost exactly what we were told when Natufibe was first brought to our attention. About as clear as the Mississippi River at high flood, sounds like sales speak to me. Fortunately for you all I was in sales for years and can almost translate it.

So Natufibe is NOT part of the portion material, Right?
 
The bag, or pouch-material, itself are not included in the “NATUFIBE® innovation”. Natufibe is an innovation of the tobacco-ingredients. Usually (or traditionally) we use the tobacco stalk to get the desirable consistency in the snus. But the technique we’re using when we produce our Natufibe-products replaces an amount of tobacco meal with a natural material, consisting of plant fiber, and that’s why the “amount of tobacco stalk” is lower in Natufibe-products.

So, it is the mixture of plant-fiber and tobacco meal that makes the Natufibe-products softer and thereby a better fit under your lip.
 
NATUFIBE® is the name of the product-innovation, which basically means that classified plant-fiber is added to the ordinary snus ingredients.

Okay got it. Basically, Natufibe is a natural plant fiber additive, approved by the Swedish version of the FDA,  used to replace some of the tobacco stalk pieces in the tobacco-meal.

Confused? I was. So I consulted a few of my tobacco industry, non SM, contacts and asked even more pointed questions.

Here is how the process works. When tobacco leaf is processed the stems are removed, leaving only actual leaf to be passed up the line. Leaf and stalk are sold separately.

Some snus manufacturers add stalk back into the ground tobacco for purposes ranging from filler, to bulk up the mix, adjusting the nicotine content (Stalk is lower in nicotine than the leaf) to unspecified reasons that were not shared with me.  

Filler tobacco is used in most tobacco mixes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, as well as snus. Filler is not necessarily a bad thing depending on what is used as filler.  Floor sweepings not good, tobacco stalk okay.

I do not know how many snus companies use filler.  I know of one recipe (Islay Whiskey Snus, if you must know)  that does not.  It may not be the only one, but it is the only one I know. 

Still with me?  

Natufibe is a natural plant fiber added to the tobacco mix to soften the feel. I have been told that Natufibe can be up to 5% of the mix.  So General Tailored or Goteborgs Rape  Slim White Slim Large portions contain 16 grams of product.

Now Swedish snus is @50% water so out of 16 grams total around 8 grams is tobacco mix.  Five percent of 8 grams is about ½ a gram.  Not a huge amount, but it really does make a big positive difference in the feel of the portion in your mouth.  

Since the Natufibe content can be up to 5%, it may well be as low as 1 or 2 %.  Swedish Match doesn’t share exact numbers with me. It's probably because they know I’d blab eventually. I’m okay with that.

This leads into another tangent; we are paying for water. Not only that, we are paying tobacco tax on water!

Okay, okay, I get it.  Water is a primary ingredient in snus. I understand taxes make little sense anyway, but we are paying tax on 16 grams of tobacco and getting 7.5 grams or less, depending on what the flavorings and such weigh.

The above is an example of how far down the rabbit hole I traveled. It all started with “what is Natufibe?” It leads to our favored tobacco product is filled with fillers, water, flavors and tobacco.  

When I was in Sweden I was told that the tobacco cost was the least of the costs associated with snus production. So Natufibe is probably not a cost saving measure.
 
I was informed by a “unnamed high ranking source” that Natufibe may filter into the entire Swedish Match line.  I honestly can’t say that is a bad thing.

I have tried the two current products available with Natufibe in them and it does exactly what they say it does. It softens the feel of the portion without altering the flavor.
 
Goteborgs Rape White Slim Portion Snus also uses Natufibe too!The biggest complaint about white portions are that they tend to get rough on the gums, General Tailored and Goteborgs Rapé White Slim Portion Snus are both white portion snus and both are much softer on the gums.

I imagine that Natufibe in lös snus, however, would be akin to having a cloud in one’s mouth.

The biggest complaint about white portions are that they tend to get rough on the gums, General Tailored and Goteborgs Rape White Slim large are both white portion snus and both are much softer on the gums.

I learned some things that troubled me a little in this investigation. Mostly involving the fact that there is more to snus than tobacco , flavor and water. Silly me, I should have thought it through and known that to begin with.   

I also struggled a bit with Natufibe being an additive, albeit a benign plant-based one,  and . I struggled with bringing all this to your attention.

This was partly from fear of the Snus Mafia and being cut off from more inside scoops, but mostly because I don’t want anyone to condemn Swedish Match for innovation.  

This is especially true when that innovation involves such a small percentage of existing products and that NutaFiber does make the white portion experience so much easier on the gums.

NATUFIBE is a natural additive to snus that really does what it claims to do. It softens the feel of the portion. It does increase the enjoyment of having a small amount of tobacco wedged in between our lip and gum.  I’m sold.  This is a boon to snus users; no snake oil here.

Mick Hellwig
WHAT I THINK at SnusCENTRAL.org

Read 7193 times Last modified on Monday, 29 September 2014 17:50

2 comments

  • Comment Link Mick Hellwig Thursday, 21 August 2014 04:49 posted by Mick Hellwig

    Thanks Larry.

    I want to get a huge Thank You to Ms. Dahlberg for her assistance and patience in getting this information put together.

    Report
  • Comment Link Larry Waters Thursday, 21 August 2014 03:17 posted by Larry Waters

    Great article Mick! Even I finally understand what NatuFibe is now. Since I'm a big fan of both General Tailored white and Goteborg's Rape' Slim portion, I'm also very relieved.

    Report

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