The history of Swedish snus from Columbus to today

Columbus got the tobacco plant as a gift, in Sweden it was grown all over the country and when the EU wanted to ban the Swedish moist snus it became rebellion. Learn about the journey from a tobacco plant to your snus can.

The history of Swedish snus from Columbus to today

Columbus got the tobacco plant as a gift, in Sweden it was grown all over the country and when the EU wanted to ban the Swedish moist snus it became rebellion. Learn about the journey from a tobacco plant to your snus can.

Columbus in the West Indies 1492

On his first journey to find India, the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus under the auspice of the Catholic monarchs of Spain found the tobacco plant in Haiti and brought it back to Europe.

The French ambassador in Lisbon

The French ambassador in Lisbon Portugal, Jean Nicot, served from 1559 to 1561 under the king Henry II. When Nicot returned to France from Lisbon he brought tobacco plants. There he introduced snuff to the French royal court and Catherine de' Medici. As it cured her headahce it soon was regarded as a universal medicine to cure headaches and other things. Jean Nicot became a celebrity as the fashionable people of Paris began to use the plant. Jean Nicot was what we today call an influencer.

The slow journey north

From Paris, the tobacco use spread to the other royal courts of Europe. The tobacco use slowly spread north and in 1637 it is noted in a Swedish customs document. This is the first known note of tobacco entering Sweden. It is a custom declaration for one skålpund of snuff, presumably the dry type.


Skålpund is an old Swedish weight unit used before the use of international standards. One skålpund is 0.425 kg (0.94 lb).

Tobacco as a staple product

In the eighteenth century, tobacco became a staple product in Sweden. As a result of a decree by the king of Sweden, tobacco was grown from Skåne in the south to Piteå in the north of Sweden.

The typical tobacco worker

At this time the typical tobacco worker was a woman. The tobacco production in Sweden continued until 1964 when the last harvest was salvaged.

The French revolution

As a result of the French revolution, it was no longer fashionable to use tobacco. A custom that was common in the French royal court and among the fashionable people in Paris.

A new social affiliation

But in Sweden the social affiliation of tobacco use switch from the fashionable people to the working class and farmers. This is when the dry snuff inhaled through the nose becomes the moist snus we know today. People working with their hands need to have their hands free for work.

Snus at that time

At that time snus was made from ground tobacco leaves without the center nerve, salt, water, potash and flavors. The tobacco was fermented at 60º C for many weeks. The long time often made bacteria grow to cause low-quality snus.

Low-quality snus

The flavors were often added to hide the bad taste and smell in low-quality snus. The snus was probably runny and unfresh in these days.

Snus in the 1800s

In the 1800s there were a great number of snus producers in Sweden. Some of the biggest producers and towns where

  • Frisk in Hudiksvall
  • Swarts in Norrköping was the biggest producer in the nineteenth century. The creator of Röda Lacket, a brand still available today.
  • In Karlhamn
  • In Karlskrona
  • The Brattström family in Karlstad.
  • The Norwegian family Tideman in Charlottenberg near the Norwegian border.

The market for snus was local

The market for snus was local and the packaging sizes differed among producers. The snus cans were oval, not round as they are today. The snus brand often had the same name as the town where it was produced. There where many producers that used the same name for their products.

The pleasure of the working classes

In this time the snus is cheap and this makes it popular among the working classes. A social class that is growing due to the industrialization where people from the provinces moved to the cities to find work. The consumer group is growing and that made it profitable to start a snus-factory.

Jakob Fredrik Ljunglöf

JacobFredrik Ljunglöf is born 1796, a son of a priest, in Sundby parish in Sörmland, and moved to Stockholm the age of 17. He got a job at Petter Helin Petterssons tobacco factory at Regeringsgatan in Stockholm. There he learned the trade and after 8 years he had the leadership over the factory. No other tobacco company in Stockholm at that time could show as high production value as Helins tobacco factory.

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf

1820 - Ljunglöf is headhunted

In 1820 Ljunglöf, at the age of 24, was headhunted to join Petter Lundgren Andersson tobacco factory on Drottninggatan. At this time Ljunglöfs reputation as a skilled worker was known in the tobacco business in Stockholm.

1821 - Ljunglöf bought the business

In 1821, on the new years day, Ljunglöf bought the business from Lundgren, who was suffering from sickness, for 110,000 KR. And in february the same year Ljunglöf married to Tullia Henriette Nettbladt and together they had eight children.

Ljunglöf receive the burgership

At the age of only 25 Ljunglöf receive the burgership, a license to practice his profession and with that all the legal rights and benefits to trade in tobacco. He understands that snus it going to be a lucrative market.

1822 - Ljunglöfs N:o 1

In 1822 the brand Ljunglöfs N:o 1 (Ettan) was introduced on the market. N:o 1 was a common denotation for a product of the highest quality. This is snus with a pure tobacco flavor and today is known as Ljunglöfs Ettan.

The ingredients in Ljunglöfs N:o 1

The ingredients in Ljunglöfs N:o 1 was Virginia tobacco, salt, water and potash. Ljunglöfs N:o 1 is the oldest snus brand still on the market.

Ettan snusdosa

Typical tobacco products

In 1839 Ljunglöf also started production of cigars and cigarettes. Other products were smoking and chewing tobacco. These are typical products for a tobacco manufacturer at this time.

Snus is inexpensive

At this time snus was as inexpensive as coffee or tea, something that made it popular among the poor and the working classes.

The entrepreneur

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf was engaged in all parts of the production and was a true entrepreneur and an optimist. This helped him to become the largest tobacco manufacturer in Sweden at this time.

New technique

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf introduced new techniques in the production and with the help of Jöns Jacob Berzelius, a world-famous scientist at the time, shortened the fermentation process from several months to one week. This was something that could take as much as six months with the old technique.

Ferment for a week

With his new technique snus was fermented in 45 to 50ºC for a week (113 to 122º F), a great reduction in time compared with the old technique.


Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf also experimented with different ways to package the snus. He tried with different types of wood and zink. He writes to his customer and asks if the product was intact upon arrival or if it was damaged by the transport.

Ljunglöfs N:o 2

As the name implies, this was lower quality snus. But Ljunglöf was determined to maintain consistent quality on all his products. It is said that every morning he got two silver bowls of snus from the batch produced the day before on his desk. In one was N:o1 and in the other N:o 2, and he had the final decision if it was to be shipped or to be destroyed.

Transportation problem

At this time the railway system was not developed to all parts of Sweden, so snus had to be delivered by horse and cart or by boat. The slow transport makes the snus moldy or soaking wet from the sea. Another problem is that farmhands steal the cargo instead of delivering it to the customer. Something Ljunglöf had to replace when customers did not get what they ordered. But as time goes on and the railways are built, the delivery problems are solved for Ljunglöf.

A man to count on

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöfs quality awareness made him someone the customer could count on. He had made a name for himself among the burghers in Stockholm.

A new factory

Soon the factory on Drottninggatan was too small, so he builds a new factory on Bastugatan (today Sveavägen) in Stockholm. Today hipsters visit the Urban Deli located on the address.

Focus on the USA

When the problem with transportation in Sweden is solved, Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf set his focus on exporting snus to the many Swedish emigrants living in the USA. Over one million Swedes emigrated to the USA between 1846 and 1930.

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf and CSR

Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf is one of the first Corporate Social Responsibility workers in Sweden. He gives the poor low-quality snus that failed the quality inspection instead of sending it to destruction. Snus that did not meet his high-quality standards is given to the poor. This became so popular, so instead of them queuing at the factory at Luntmakargatan, he delivered it directly to where they live.

Knut Ljunglöf - The king of snus

Jacob Fredriks son Knut, 1833 - 1920, likes to dress in plain clothes compared to his father’s more strict dress. But it is under Knut that the snus volumes grow. This gives him the nickname the King of snus (snuskungen).

Knut Ljunglöf - Snuskungen

Knut Ljunglöf

Discontinued production

It is under Knuts supervision all other snus products are discontinued except N:o 1 and N:o 2. The new fermentation process is also implemented fully under Knut. This is something that speeds up the process to reach the higher volumes of snus.

The golden age

It is under Knut Ljunglöf that the company experience its golden age. This is the time when the company is at its peak. Knut buys large amount of land in Stockholm and builds a summer house in Blackeberg called the Ljunglöf palace.

Hard but fair

Knut Ljunglöf is considered to be hard but fair to his employees. But it is said that he’s not as street smart as his father Jacob Fredrik.

A special customer

As his father did, Knus also experiment with different ways to package snus. He finds that wrapping snus in tain makes the snus stay fresh for a longer period of time. This is what makes it possible to deliver snus to a special customer, Pope Leo XIII. It’s said that the pope was very pleased with Knuts snus.

Johan Adolf Boman

Johan Adolf Boman is born 1821 in Strömstad and moved to Gothenburg at an age of 21 with only three riksdalers in his pocket (180 kr today). Two of these he spent, but one he saved. As a tradition, the oldest son in the family inherited that one riksdaler.

Started as a clerk

Boman’s first job was as a clerk at a tobacco manufacturer named Körner were he later became a partner, Körner & Boman. They where wholesale dealers and did not sell to the end consumers.

He slowly develops the firm

1851 Boman got married with Gustafva Armanda d’Orchimont who came from a French noble family. With hard work, he slowly develops the firm and in 1861 he takes over the firm under the name J.A. Boman & Co.

1862 World fair in London

In 1862 Boman participated in the world fair in London, a foresighted thing to do for a small company.

In 1866 General-snus is created

In 1866 Johan Adolf Boman creates General-snus, a brand that became very popular and long-lived. The name has nothing to do with the military, the word it is used as a superlative. General is something that is above, a premium thing or product. It is said that Boman was obsessed with creating the best snus the market had ever seen.

General becomes a top seller and immensely popular among the 19th century snus consumers. But at the time, many manufacturers had products with the same name.

The General flavor

Ljunglöfs N:o 1 is a tobacco flavored snus with not much-added flavor, but General is flavored with bergamott orange, citrus bergamia, a fragrant citrus fruit.

Strict conservative

It is said that Johan Adolf Boman was strict conservative. He never sat his foot in a kitchen and run a strict regimen in his factory. The employees had to ask the foreman for permission to go to the toilet.

A small familiar business

Boman’s company is a small familiar company where everyone knew everyone. And in 1880 Johans son Gustaf continues the company.

Market breakdown

Instead of a trade war, Ljunglöf and Boman decided to split the market between themselves. It is said that they met in Laxå between Gothenburg and Stockholm do divide the market. It was agreed that Boman should not go east of Jönköping and Ljunglöf should not go west of Laxå.

1 kg snus per year

In the early 1900s, a Swede on average used 1 kg snus per year (2.2 lb). Snus becomes gold for factory owners like Boman and Ljunglöf.

The Swedish tobacco-trade monopoly

The Swedish tobacco-trade monopoly, established in 1915, was a knock-down for the snus manufacturers. It put a stop to the golden age for snus producers like Ljunglöf and Boman.

World war one

In 1914 world war one start and the Swedish army was in a miserable condition. The country is poor and needs a lot of money to equip the armed forces. Money is also needed for social-welfare and pensions for the citizens. The tobacco-trade monopoly is one quick way to get money.

The consumption of alcohol

A monopoly on wine and alcohol is also introduced at this time. But this is done mainly to curb abuse, but with the tobacco monopoly, it is to make money for the state.

Boman is devastated

Boman gets very upset and devastated that his life’s work is taken over by the state. He felt like he’s been stabbed in the back by the right-wing conservative government at the time. The same right-wing party where Boman was a member.

Knut Ljunglöfs son Robert

Knut Ljunglöf had trained his son Robert to take over the company. He had to begin his carrer, 30 years old, to close the family empire. But the monoply is a parliament decision and he can do nothing about it.

But Robert is not so dissapointed, he wasn’t so keen to devote his life to become a snus manufacturer.

Instead Robert founded the insurance company Thule with the family’s wealth. He build a impressing office complex on Sveavägen 44 wher Ljunglöfs factory has been located. On that address Swedish Match has its head office today.

The state took over all existing brands

It’s with the tobacco-monopoly snus products and packaging as we know it today is emerging. The state took over all existing snus brands and the first year it’s about 400 different snus brands on the market.

The second year, 1916, the brands are reduced to half that amount. But snus still has a market with a production of 3441 metric tons per year.

Sweden becomes rich and modern

The snus market experiencing a crisis when Sweden becomes rich and modern. Instead of snus, cigarettes is the thing to use if you want to be cool. American soldiers in WW2 is not using snus, they are smoking. And so does all the movie stars in all the movies. Cigarettes are cheap, popular and unstoppable. Now the monopoly only focuses on cigarettes. It’s only old men who use snus.

A new era for snus

In the 1960s the marketing department decided to give snus a new chance. The snus can become round and got a metal lid. This gave impact and snus became a modern product.

Smoking causes lung cancer

Reports about the harmfulness of smoking began to appear in the news. Soon there was a crusade against smoking. Warning labels were introduced on cigarette packages in the 1970s. More and more Swedes quit smoking and start using snus instead. Röda Lacket was the brand to use if you were left wing in that era.

The innovation that changed the market

In 1973 the first pre-packed snus, Smokeless, was introduced and was big news covered in all newspapers and TV channels. But this was not a new idea, it was first patented in 1927. K W Nyberg got a patent for a snus tablet, snus packaged in disinfected gauze. But the patent expired without it coming out on the market.

An unusual request

It all started as a request from a residential home for a more practical way to package the snus. It was messy for old men who wanted to use snus and they often needed help from the staff. But it should take another four years of development before it came out on the market.

The first snus portions

The first snus portions were packaged in heat-sealed aluminum foil in which there was a prilla wrapped in a so-called wet paper. The flavor was released through the paper while being very durable.

No immediate success

Smokeless portions did not get the success that had been expected, and in 1976, a new attempt was made with Tre Ankare with better success. A brand that is still available today.

First woman

An advertising picture of a woman using snus was published for the first time. Snus portions were something that came to change the Swedes' snus-habits forever.

Regardless of class and gender

The snus portions also attract many women to quit smoking. Snus becomes acceptable regardless of class, gender or values. You can see snus in meeting rooms and inside expensive handbags.

The European Union

In the late 1980s, a Swedish EU application is planned. In 1992, the EU prohibits Swedish moist snus, but not dry snuff, chewing tobacco or cigarettes.

A big cultural issue

Snus became a big issue leading up to the referendum on the EU application. Snus is part of the Swedish identity and culture and 1 million Swedes are using snus. The referendum to join EU did win with a small margin, but Sweden got a permanent exception from the moist snus prohibition. Warning labels and the design is still today a current issue.

Not so lucky

But the neighboring country Finland, with many snus users, have to follow the ban. This leading to a lucrative border trade in the north of Sweden where the countries share the border.

The Snus Connaisseur

Adapted by hipsters

Today snus is adapted by hipsters, it has become something to enjoy, like fine wine or cigars. A limited edition of Kardus is released in December every year. Often it is a collaboration with a famous chef or an alcohol brand like Härnö Gin.

Flavor your own snus

You can now flavor your own snus from an array of flavors in Swedish Match store on Stureplan in Stockholm or in the SM store on Avenyn in Gothenburg.

Save money

But for the price of one 150 gr (5.3 oz) Kardus, I can make snus that lasts me over a year. So, if you want to save money, learn how to make your own snus at home for a fraction of what it cost to buy snus from a store.

Making your own snus at home has become a popular hobby among snus users in Sweden. Many web stores sell grind tobacco and ingredients for snus production at home.

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