2020 - The Year of the Nicotine Pouch
By Chad Jones
Years ago, in 2015, I reviewed a new product breaking onto the market called ON! Nicotine Pouches. As a snus guy, I admit I scoffed at these products. I thought to myself, “Who would use these, and why?”. Having reviewed snus for about 6 years at that point, I was pretty in love with the Swedish smokeless tobacco that had taken my world by storm. But, over time, I went from being a product reviewer to being a tobacco harm reduction advocate. When these nicotine pouch products came onto the market, I knew I wouldn’t be using them. I knew they weren’t for me. But I decided to review them for the sake of tobacco harm reduction. They are, after all, products that are present less risk than smoking. And, in my book, anything less risky than smoking is a good thing.
Looking back on 2020, I think the thing we can say pretty clearly at this point is that nicotine pouches are incredibly popular, the “next big thing”, and they’re here to stay. This is by no means scientific, but I perused my reviews to come up with an estimate of what the market looks like in 2020, and this is what I came up with. It looks like I reviewed around 209 new snus and nicotine pouch products in 2020. 78 of them were snus products, for 37.32%. However, 131 of them were new nicotine pouch products, for 62.67%.
Looking back, it looks like nicotine pouches were a bulk of the new releases in 2020. It’s surprising to me, to say the least. However, I don’t think this is a trend that is going to change. The category started small. However, as months went by we saw more and more of these releases. It seems like day by day there was an announcement of yet another new nicotine pouch product. More and more manufacturers broke onto the scene to join this growing category. New brands popped up, and existing brand names released their own version of this tobacco-free alternative.
As a tobacco harm reduction advocate, that excited me. As a snus lover, it made me sad. I noticed many of my friends who used snus switching over to these nicotine pouch products. It was never a question for me, I’m a ride or die snus guy. I love the taste of tobacco. And as of now, no nicotine pouch has truly mastered the classic taste of tobacco. Some have tried, some have gotten close, but no one has quite got it yet. In early 2021, Swedish Match released a nicotine pouch under the General XRANGE brand, so you can tell that companies are getting serious about getting that flavor right.
When it comes to nicotine pouches, I don’t close any doors. If at some point a nicotine pouch product came out that tasted like General Snus, and one came out that tasted like Göteborgs Rapé, I’m not saying I wouldn’t switch. I know, that may be disheartening to hardcore snus fans. But hey, I like to keep my options open. And I won’t close that door. I’ve always been a never say never kind of guy. Heck, this year I took up non-alcoholic beer, so anything can happen. I can’t say at this point in time I would want to switch to nicotine pouches, but I can’t say that at some point I won’t want to switch to nicotine pouches.
The rise of nicotine pouches also saw a rise in the most annoying phrase I think I’ve ever heard in my life: “Fake Snus Establishment”. Yes, for some reason, there are people who are deeply offended to their core that nicotine pouches even exist. I know, first world problems. But the fact of the matter is this: snus is snus and nicotine pouches are nicotine pouches. Nicotine Pouches aren’t fake snus any more than snus is a fake nicotine pouch. The two are different things. Just because they both come in a pouch doesn’t mean they can really be compared, and one called “fake” and another called “real”. I always caution people about this form of gatekeeping, as that sort of thing doesn’t help anyone at the end of the day. It just makes snus users look elitist, which isn’t a good look.
Looking forward, it looks like nicotine pouches are going to be all the rage. If you’re a snus user, I’m sorry. Nicotine pouches are cheaper and easier to make, and they sell better. If you own a company, what do you focus on making, products that sell more, or products that sell less? Products that cost more to make, or products that cost less to make? It’s all about the bottom line, and the companies know that. While 62.67% of the new product reviews I did in 2020 were nicotine pouches, I can only suspect that number will rise in 2021. Perhaps it could go as high as 75%. I don’t foresee this number lessening, by any means. Those of us who love snus are going to be bummed out about that. Those who love nicotine pouches are going to be excited about that. To that segment, it means more variety.
Will we continue to see new snus products? Sure, but at a lower pace. That is inevitable with how popular these nicotine pouches are becoming. It does make you appreciate the snus we have even more, though. I’ve always been a fan of General Snus and Göteborgs Rapé, but I think I enjoy them more now. I know we may not see a ton of new variants of those products, but they’ll always be there, and that’s something I can take comfort in. To nicotine pouch users, if that’s what you’re into, use it with pride. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you hear the elitist battle cry of “Fake Snus Establishment”, just shrug it off. To the snusers who are offended that nicotine pouches exist, you do you. But they aren’t going anywhere. Let’s just appreciate what we have and not judge others for what they use.
At the end of the day, we’re all lovers of the pouch. Or loose. But, according to sales figures, mostly lovers of the pouch. Enjoy what you enjoy. Love what you love. But we also have to accept reality. This means less new snus products, and more new nicotine pouch products. Change is inevitable, it is the nature of life. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Change is inevitable, change is constant”. 2020 was a preview of 2021, and the subsequent years that are still unwritten.