Sunday, 09 August 2009 10:42

Andrew Romeo

andrew_romeo3-5Andrew Romeo has been in the Tobacco & CPG business in the global market for over 15 years. In May, he agreed to begin writing a guest column for Snus Central entitled "Andrew Romeo - An Insider's Perspective".

Andrew Romeo's extensive professional resume gives him a unique perspective among American tobacco executives.  He was most recently Managing Director for Scandinavia at Taboca AB.  When at Gallaher Group PLC, Mr. Romeo served as Country Director, Gallaher Polska Sp. Z.o.o;  Country Director for Sweden; Vice President of Northern Europe and Scandinavia, and Vice President Northern Europe, Poland, and Baltics.

He also spent a significant amount of time in Moscow, Russia for Liggett-Ducat LTD as Sales Director, General Director, LD Trading; Director of Sales and Marketing; and Director of Logistics, Transport and Warehousing.

Published in Authors
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 23:20

Andrew Romeo Making Secret US Visit!

SnusCIA Update; St. Petersburg, Russia

December 15th 2009....Opereration AlchoPop......URGENT.....Confirmed but Confused Data

Andrew Romeo in transit (spy photo)It seems like just last week that Tobacco and CPG Insider Andrew Romeo left the United States for an indeterminate period of at least 4 months.  It actually was last week, come to think of it.   Romeo confirmed he would be based in St. Petersburg Russia although "Consulting" for Big Russian Drink thoughout Russia.

In a heavily censored mail intercepted by SnusCIA assets in Russia, Romeo is now said to be returning "briefly" to the United States in 3 days.  The cover story revolves around a holiday factory closing.  We find this rather difficult to believe.  Unless Mr. Romeo is a frequent flyer mile junkie, the thought of NYC to Frankfurt to St. Petersburg to Frankfort to NYC to Frankfurt to St. Petersburg in less than one month streaches credibility.

  • Who will guard his new luxury apartment complete with new appliances in St. Petersburg?
  • Who will take care of the dog he rented for companionship?   [not yet confirmed]
  • Will his heated undergarments work on 110 volt AC?
  • Is it true that Mr. Romeo will be meeting with officials of Xe; formerly Blackwater?  [totally unconfirmed but it sounds exciting...who knows, maybe it is true?  Doubt it.]
  • Is Mr. Romeo having Christmas dinner with FDA Tobacco Czar Dr. Lawrence Deyton?  If so, is he bringing AlchoPop?

There are simply too many unanswered questions concerning Andrew Romeo's (formerly) secret visit back to New York City to accept a simple Christmas visit at face value.  Awaiting more information.......

............................end of report..............

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 12:50

The (other) Great White North

Andrew Romeo reports for SnusCentral in RussiaStarting next week, I will be posting from my old 'stomping ground' of Russia.

Specifically, I have accepted a consultancy appointment with a drinks company in St. Petersburg, and will be primarily focused on business in the "regions."

In Russia, the "regions" is everything outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg.  I will be spending time in the Ural Mountains (Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, Ufa), the Far East (Vladivostok, Khabarovsk), Siberia (Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk), the Volga region (Samara, Volgograd, Saratov, Nizhniy Novgorod) and the South (Rostov, Sochi, Krasnodar).

I have spent time in all these cities, and because packaged drinks occupy the same retail shops as tobacco products, I will be able have a look first hand at how that business is doing.  At last glance, Russia had a 360 billion stick cigarette market.  Once, the Big Boys competed with over 60 local factories, of which perhaps a dozen still exist today.  JTI leads the market after its acquisition of Gallaher in 2007, followed by Philip Morris, BAT and Imperial.

The last great local fighter, "Donskoitabak" missed out on all the fun in the 1990s (BAT bought 'Yava,' Liggett bought "Ducat," (and Gallaher then bought "Liggett-Ducat," the reason for the brand-name 'LD' I kid you not).  JTI bought the largest factory in St. Petersburg, and PMI built from scratch.  Donskoi continues to work on reduced local share in Rostov and the South, and a few factories still churn out non-filtered traditional products.

Snus is available in outlets all over Moscow, St. Pete's and the western half of the country, and I will do my best to send in reports from time to time as to what is going on in this turbulent industry.  What I know now is that, after a mass consolidation of hundreds of local wholesaler/distributors in the early 2000's to three, the Great Recession has given rise to an unraveling of this secure environment.  Small distributors are popping up again, and the cash-driven open markets or "bazaars" which were so prevalent in the 1990s have begun re-appearing.

Russia lives in "interesting times" and I am happy to be going back.

Желаем всем вам мои наилучшие пожелания,The Official SnusCENTRAL Winter Graphic

Soon Reporting from Russia for

Monday, 26 October 2009 14:59

No News is Good News

Swedish Match AB is in PR Emergency Mode today, Monday, October 26th.  Why?

An American researcher from Harvard, Greg Connolly, read a snus ingredient label in 2008, and found a smoking gun called "E500" which regulates acidity in food products, and has been in traditional use in snus for many decades.  It is all snus products produced in Sweden.

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


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.


Wednesday, 19 August 2009 16:44

Have Cigarette Brands Failed as Snus Brands?

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.

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


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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