News; May 11, 2007 CET

Tradition and innovation

Greatly simplified, production of snus requires only tobacco, water and salt. For Swedish Match, however, the production of quality snus is an advanced and highly technical process that begins long before the tobacco reaches the plant.
Walking around the Swedish Match snus plant in Kungälv, a town on the west coast of Sweden, you are struck by the fact that it is modern, bright and so clinically sterile that you could eat from the floor. There isn’t even a smell of tobacco. The fact that the production process is completely closed means that tobacco is really only seen when it is on its way to the mill and when the pouches are placed in the cans.

Tobias Brännberg, Head of the Tobacco and Recipes department, explains that the starting point for good snus is tobacco of high quality. "The tobacco must have the right chemical composition, and the leaves must feel alive, smell fresh and have a mature color. The tobacco has the greatest impact on the final product’s aroma and taste," says Brännberg.

Tobias and his colleagues are responsible for the quality of the tobacco and accompany the tobacco purchasers on their trips to visit plantations. Because tobacco varieties differ widely in character depending on climate and soil, Swedish Match currently purchases tobacco from eleven countries in various part of the world, reveals Tobias. "You can compare this with the difference between various types of grapes. To ensure that the tobacco is of high quality, we take samples for analysis in the growers barns," he says.

GOTHIATEK® – our own quality standard

Swedish Match has introduced its own quality standard called GOTHIATEK® Gunnel Johansson, acting Plant Manager at Kungälv, explains that in tobacco, like other crops, there are undesirable substances that research has shown can result in possible health hazards if they are present in excessive concentrations. Swedish Match works conscientiously and over the long term to refine products and improve production techniques. GOTHIATEK® is the result of many years of research and places very stringent requirements on the raw materials, production process and maximum permissible levels of unwanted substances in the snus.

All ingredients in snus from Swedish Match are approved as food additives, and the hygiene requirements in the plant are very high. The entire machine park undergoes a total cleaning every day. To meet the hygiene requirements in the plant, visitors must put on protective clothing and caps. Hands must be washed and rings removed.

"We are extremely careful with respect to hygiene and have introduced three hygiene zones. No one is allowed past the reception without protective clothing," says Gunnel Johansson.

Innovation produces unique products

Swedish Match, which is the Scandinavian market leader, accounts for much of the innovation in the snus industry. One example is the white product technology developed by Swedish Match. The result is portion snus with a whiter and fresher appearance, despite the fact that it is just as moist as traditional portion snus. With this technology, the snus runs less and retains its taste longer.

"This is a unique method that is only used by us. It was also a successful initiative, since market share is increasing rapidly," relates Gunnel Johansson. Our visit includes the flavoring room where the flavoring agents that are added to certain kinds of snus are stored. Tobias Brännberg explains that recipes are critical in producing the best snus. For loose snus, compressibility is also important. Each recipe contains about 20 types of tobacco. Certain brands also contain aromatic substances, such as lemon, licorice and whiskey. Ettan, with 180 years to its credit, is Swedish Match’s oldest brand, and its recipe has not been changed in any major way since the start.

Cooperation underlies success

The production of snus takes place in three stages: grinding, blending and packaging. The process is illustrated above. The packaged snus is stored in refrigerated rooms a number of days before distribution to retailers so that it matures and develops its characteristic aroma and taste before reaching consumers.

Asked why Swedish Match’s snus sells so well, Tobias Brännberg and Gunnel Johansson reply that it is due to the company’s long tradition and high expertise from raw tobacco purchasing to marketing. "One success factor is that we are skilled in determining what consumers want and that cross-functional cooperation between marketing, production and sales functions very well," says Tobias Brännberg.

"I see it as a successful combination of tradition and innovation," concludes Gunnel Johansson.