Tre Ankare - the world's first successful snus pouch
Imagine what things were like at the time: 1) The total global market for personal computers was about 48,000 units. 2) The world's two super-powers were playing a cat-and-mouse game known as the Cold War. 3) In cinemas, the rebels were trying to blow up the evil empire's death star. 4) The folks at Swedish Match decided that the it was about time to launch Tre Ankare, a snus that was only available in little pouches - something noone had done before!
In the snus world, it was something close to a revolution.
Prior to Tre Ankare, you had to bake the snus yourself. Not that there's anything wrong with it; baking is a noble art, but for people outside the snus world, the handling of loose snus was considered a somewhat messy activity. The 'problem' was well known. Clever tools were invented that were supposed to take care of the baking and reduce the mess, but the idea never flew. The human hand has 48 muscles and would therefore outperform any little tool, no matter how clever. In 1973, the researchers at Swedish Match launched Smokeless, a whiskey flavoured snus that came in the form of little pouch packs, not very different from tea bags. The pouches in turn came in a little plastic bag. The product failed gracefully and the brand was withdrawn from the market. When asking the consumers about it, it was clear that they had been positive to the new way of snusing, but not the content of the pouches, so the research department kept on researching. In 1977 they made a breakthrough with Tre Ankare.
Quite a few eyebrows were raised and the traditionalists weren't impressed, but this new, clean and very discreet form of snusing quickly attracted a lot of fans. Not only was it quicker and less messy to place the pouch under the lip; it was also much easier to dispose of the used pouches. As a bonus, the pouches didn't leave the slightest trace of snus on the fingers. When launching Tre Ankare, the developers at Swedish Match chose a full-bodied tobacco with a distinct flavor; most would agree that it has an 'earthy' taste of dark tobacco and dried herbs. So not only should Tre Ankare with its innovative pouches be regarded as a revolution in the snus world. It should also be credited with being a great tasting snus.
Tre Ankare brand
The 14th of March 1975, Swedish Match registered the Tre Ankare brand. Two years later, the product was available to the public. It's safe to say that it made a name for itself by being a unique product, (besides, advertising for snus has always been very restriced in Sweden). And with such obvious product advantages, there couldn't be any more effective marketing than the consumers using the product. What could be noted is the rather masculine package design - a reflection of the powerful taste - which has undergone very few and minor changes throughout the years. At the same time it was one of the first snus brands to attract a larger number of female users. Tre Ankare appeals to a discerning and quite conservative group of snusers, many of which have been faithful to the brand since the introduction in the 1970s.
Rigorous control - from plant to pouch
It starts in the soil. Before someone even puts a seed in it, soil samples are taken to a laboratory in Sweden for analysis. Swedish Match experiments with cultivation in different countries to achieve the best possible raw tobacco. If declared a good soil for tobacco, seeds are planted and every step in the development and the cultivation of the plant is carefully monitored. The tobacco is selected on the basis of seed type, location, climate, leaf position on the plant and curing conditions. When cultivation have started, representatives from Swedish Match will visit the plantations regularly to ensure that the crops will meet the requirements. There's a simple purpose for all this care: To ensure that the tobacco that ends up being selected for the various snus blends from Swedish Match contains the lowest levels of undesirable components possible. This quality control continues through the entire chain of production; when the leaves are harvested and air-cured; when transported and later sorted in a gianormous, perfectly climatized storehouse. Then, finally, the tobacco will find its way to the factory.
When hi-tech meets a 200 year-old tradition.
In step one, the tobacco leaves are crushed and ground to fine grains; the size of the particles varies with the brand. The tobacco is then carefully mixed into a blend. A blend could contain anything between 10 and 30 different grades of tobacco depending on the recipe. In step two, the tobacco is mixed with the other main snus ingredients; water and salt. It's then time for it to undergo heat treatment, (pasteurization). After being chilled the tobacco meets the different ingredients - spices, natural oils or even bourbon whiskey - that will give the snus that extra flavor and special character. And then, finally, it's time for packaging. Loose snus goes straight into the can. For portions the correct amount of snus is first wrapped in a little pouch. In the Swedish Match factories, there is a zero tolerance for errors. Everything - which means everything - is completely focused on delivering top quality. Sophisticated instruments measure and control the process along with watchful and well trained eyes. The tradition of manufacturing snus is 200 years old in Sweden, but there's nothing traditional or old about the Swedish Match production plant. If your nose wouldn't detect the pleasant scent of tobacco here and there in the manufacturing facility, you could easily picture that parts for a fighter jet were being produced instead of snus. They even invented their own quality standard, GothiaTek. And that certainly did not happen because they wanted to make life easy for themselves. It's very much the other way around. Yes, those Swedes are a tough bunch.
The first successful snus in pouches and a powerful experience as well.