Production and product quality of Swedish snus

Swedish snus has been around for hundreds of years, but development and production today is incredibly different from what it looked like in the beginning.

Production and product quality of Swedish snus

Swedish snus has been around for hundreds of years, but development and production today is incredibly different from what it looked like in the beginning.

Snus has been around for generations in Sweden. Ljunglöfs Ettan was introduced in 1822 and is still on the market today. But how is product development conducted today? In this post, I will try to answer that question with the help of snuspodden (the Snus podcast) by Swedish Match.

The flavor is important in the development

In the old days flavors were used to disguise the bad taste and rancid snus. Today the flavor is used as a complement to the tobacco flavor. You find it in products for large consumer groups all the way to personal blends with your own unique flavors.

SM snus today has a wide range of flavors

Snus today has a wide range of flavors due to the desire to develop the product. You find a wide range of flavors to choose from when you buy snus. Catch dry was the product that changed how new snus products are developed.

Quality-aware customers

For a quality-aware customer, the experience is important, including quality, taste, and overall experience. To describe the taste and quality of snus, often the language used by a wine connoisseur is used. Describing snus in such terms is a late invention, something you wouldn’t find 200 years ago.

Snus is a perishable product

Snus is a perishable product processed in a closed system. Hygiene, quality and product development is cornerstones in snus production. The production is rigorously controlled at Swedish Match loose snus production facility at Gothenburg’s harbor, where 2 ton snus is produced each year. In Gothenburg, loose snus and original portions are produced and in Kungälv white portions are produced.

Gothenburg Port Cranes

Gothenburg Port Cranes

The raw material is most important

The most important thing in the production is the raw material, the tobacco. Everything has to be of the highest quality to be used in SM snus. Specialists do the procurement of tobacco searching for certain types and quality of tobacco.

Sample quality control

Before SM buys any tobacco samples are sent to SM’s analysis lab in Stockholm for quality control. Only tobacco that passes the quality control is used in the production. The quality is constantly checked throughout the production. Everything from the snus mix, the flavors to the cans are checked for quality.

From Argentina to Gothenburg

SM buys tobacco from all over the world and some of it from Argentina. The tobacco plant is harvested with a machete and the transport starts on a trolley from the plantation. After the leaves are dried the tobacco pressed into bales and packed in cardboard boxes before being shipped to Gothenburg by boat for environmental reasons. Nothing can go wrong from harvest to finished snus. The hygiene is as strict as for food production.

Growing tobacco

Growing tobacco

Swedish tobacco in snus?

Tobacco has been grown in Sweden, but the Swedish climate is a disadvantage. This means that tobacco grows more slowly and it gives other properties than what SM is looking for.

240 million cans per year

Swedish Match produces 240 million snus cans per year and all are of the same high and even quality.

The taste talent Lars Öberg

Lars Öberg is a taste talent with regard to taste and aroma. The sense of taste and smell is hard to learn unless you have the talent for it. This knowledge is also the ability to express in words what you experience. It is important that you have a common language among the testers so that you say and mean the same thing. The testers have borrowed the same language as wine tasters to describe different flavors.

Surprises pops up

SM receives lots of data from surveys about what customers think about their products. But sometimes surprises pop up, as Göteborgs Rapé White was one of them. At the time, SM did not have the capacity to meet the demand in the market. White portions had a news-value and this was not something they had expected but it became a very successful flavor.

From prototype to production

After the prototype phase, the most critical phase is to take the product into production, then unforeseen things can happen. It is when we test in an environment that differs from reality things can happen.

In the beginning

In the beginning, SM had no competitors, they decided what would be on the market. They had no pressure to produce new products when there was no competition in the market. At that time, SM released on average one new product per year.

Now the need for product development has increased tremendously in comparison, both at SM and their competitors. Lars does not know how many different snus there are on the market today.

Today’s product development

Today’s product development is incredibly different from when Lars Öberg joined SM for over 35 years ago. Then there was one person who worked in the marketing department. He could come to Lars with a product proposal, “I would like it to smell like dewy grass”.

As complicated as food or medicine

Making snus is as complicated as making food or making a medicine. It’s all about the art of making snus with high technology and trained noses.

A love for details

A love for details, not just with customers and product developers, it is built into the production of snus. From how tobacco is selected to how the factory has been built up to snus production all the way down to the snus-can. Not only quality and hygiene, but it also must taste the same over time. This is achieved through control reference products, zero samples, frozen products to calibrate against.

Product development is also rooted in the consumer categories, they have lots of thoughts and ideas. Larger portions are in demand and things of that sort.

Consumer surveys

SM conducts extensive market research on how customers behave on the market. This is big data and important o see what people are interested in. This is something SM has been good at, maybe even too good. It has mostly been data needed to get the company management onboard on a new project. Historically, it has been important to show an interest in a new product on the market.

GotiaTek quality standard

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GotiaTek is Swedish Match quality standard since the year 2000 and is based on the following points.

  • 1 Caring for the consumer where low limit values of undesirable substances are important.
  • 2 High demands on product quality with careful control from seed to can.
  • 3 Transparency, the consumer gets information about the products and the company’s research. SM does everything possible to keep the product quality as high as possible.

GOTIATEK is an SIS-standard

The GotiaTek quality standard is now also a proper SIS-standard (Swedish Standards Institute). It covers the maximum levels of chemical substances that are present in the SM products. SM guarantees some of these levels as well as how SM controls the business and what demands they make on the snus production.

Customer complaint reclamation’s

Only one can of 100,000 is returned for reclamation, a tolerance of 10ppm (Parts Per Million). This is largely based on SM’s efforts to improve the product by devising the GotiaTek quality standard.

One production line - one snus

SM only produces one brand of snus per production line. In the production, every cans’ weight and appearance are controlled. After that, they go on a line for labeling and tagging. After that, every 10 cans are wrapped in a retail package, the ”log”. The wrapped cans are then placed into a cardboard box and transported to cooler storage.

It looks clinical

It looks clinical in the production line, white flooring, coats and, hairnets on the workers. None of the workers touch the snus during production to prevent contamination of bacteria or anything else.

Saffron in snus?

  • Lars Öberg, can you imagine snus with a taste of saffron?
    • No, there is a substance in saffron that makes it taste saffron that we are not allowed to have in snus.
  • Cinnamon?
    • Yes, that’s possible.
  • Brandy?
    • Yes, that’s possible.
  • Coca Cola?
    • Yes, that’s likely.
  • Bearnaise?
    • No, I don’t believe it, or meat, etc. Snus is not food.
  • Apple?
    • Yes, there will probably be, but it is very difficult. But in five years we may have succeeded with apple-flavored snus.

But if it wasn’t harmful, Lars would make snus on dark fired Kentucky tobacco. It smells like smoked eels. But fire-dried tobacco has too high levels of TSNA to meet the GotiaTek quality standard.

Reference

Pictures

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Take it easy and snus on Anders

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