The History of Nicotine Pouches - picture of a can of ZYN on a table - Nicokick

The History of Nicotine Pouches

Nicotine pouches have made an impact among U.S. nicotine users, but very few people know the full story of their rich heritage deeply rooted in Scandinavian culture.

Originating in Sweden in the 19th century, snus pouches were initially moist tobacco products placed under the upper lip. Fast forward to the modern era, and we witness the emergence of tobacco leaf-free nicotine pouches, offering a convenient and discreet nicotine experience. But when did nicotine pouches come out? Where were nicotine pouches invented? In this article, we'll take a journey through the brief history of these innovative smokeless products that have revolutionized the way people enjoy nicotine. 


When Were Nicotine Pouches Created?

Swedish snus has been around for centuries, but the first pre-portioned pouches were launched in the 1970s (previously, users had only a loose tobacco snus option). However, over the recent decades as modern technology continues to develop and we have a better understanding of smoking risks, it was only going to be a matter of time before a tobacco leaf-free alternative to oral tobacco products was created. 


Introducing nicotine pouches. What are nicotine pouches? They are small white pouches containing nicotine without tobacco leaf, dust, or stem. The first nicotine pouch was registered in 2008 (under the name “Zonnic”) in Scandinavia, but was developed at the start of 2000 by Niconovum (a brand focusing on Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products such as lozenges and gums to help smokers quit smoking).  In 2009, RJ Reynolds (now known as British American Tobacco or BAT) bought Niconovum. Since then, tobacco companies such as Swedish Match and BAT have driven the category and have spread the Scandinavian product across overseas to the U.S. and beyond, as the demand for a tobacco leaf-free smokeless nicotine product has increased. 


2014: When Nicotine Pouches Came Out in the U.S.

One of the first brands to launch nicotine pouches in the U.S. was ZYN (a brand from Swedish Match). So, when did ZYN come out? ZYN pouches were first introduced to the U.S. market in 2014 and have had great success since then, with other major tobacco and nicotine companies entering the nicotine pouch market after seeing the success of ZYN. ZYN was invented in Sweden, but they now have a specific range tailored to the U.S. market and products are now made not just in Sweden but also Kentucky. 


2019: The Launch of Other Popular Brands

In 2019, On! pouches and VELO nicotine pouches both made it to the U.S. market, as well as Lucy. Their brands entered the market, offering a range of nicotine pouch products with various flavors and nicotine strengths, bringing more options to nicotine users across the U.S.  Since then, the popularity and availability of nicotine pouches has continued to grow. Numerous brands have entered the U.S. market, such as Rogue nicotine pouches in 2020. Each brand offers its unique range of flavors, nicotine strengths, and product formulations, catering to the diverse preferences of consumers. The sales of nicotine pouches online really began exploding in 2019, with the brands fully getting immersed in the category. On Nicokick in 2019, an average of 80,000 cans of nicotine pouches were sold every month - if this doesnt show you how popular pouches have become, I don’t know what will.


2020: The Market Hits a High

Nicotine pouch sales were really booming (especially online), just 6 years after the first pouch launched in the USA. More and more new products had been entering the game, having to be more innovative than ever before. For example, 2020 saw the launch of FRE Nicotine Pouches. Prior to Frē, nicotine pouch products sold on the market contained tobacco derived nicotine (where nicotine is extracted from the tobacco leaf, but does not contain tobacco leaf) . Yes, it is true that nicotine pouches are at least tobacco leaf-free, but some argued that they weren’t entirely tobacco free if they contained tobacco-derived nicotine. In October of 2020, a company called Next Generation Labs (a synthetic nicotine manufacturer) partnered with Dholakia Tobacco and put their technology to use in FRE Nicotine Pouches, to make these pouches an entirely tobacco-free product. From start to finish in the manufacturing process, there is zero tobacco involved. FRE Nicotine Pouches also launched with stronger nicotine levels that the U.S. market had seen: 9mg and 12mg strengths for a stronger nicotine option. 


2021: Increased Awareness and Acceptance

In 2021, the nicotine pouch sector experienced even bigger growth in the U.S. market. The year was marked by increased visibility of nicotine pouches and users have started moving to using these nicotine products as alternatives for classic oral tobacco products. Many well-established brands expanded their ranges and kept adding new flavors, strengths and kept trying to create a new and innovative product to put them at the top. The availability of pouches, both online and in physical stores, increased and added to the popularity of nicotine pouches. 


2023: What Does the Future of Nicotine Pouches Look Like?

Nicotine pouch manufacturers are getting more and more creative, and new brands are looking to enter the game. New brands such as L!X nicotine pouches and Juice Head bring new and innovative products to the market, with L!X bringing a range of soft and long-lasting pouches and Juice Head offering the first “fruit-forward range". 

It’s only going to get more interesting from here. Quite a few things remain to be seen. How many new brands will launch on the U.S. market? Will the popularity of nicotine pouches continue to grow? How many people will switch from smoking to nicotine pouches? Will availability continue to expand? Will there be more pouches made with synthetic nicotine? Stay tuned and keep an eye on Nicokick to see how things shape up!



Frequently Asked Questions About the History of Nicotine Pouches

  • Nicotine pouches first came out in the mid-2000s in Scandinavia. However, they first came out in the US in 2014, with the launch of ZYN.
  • It has been over 20 years since the first nicotine pouch was released, however they have been in the US for nearly 10 years.
  • Technically, ZYN was launched in 2014 in the US. However, ZYN was released in a limited area in the western United States by 2016. ZYNs were available in around 4,000 retail stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
  • ZYN pouches are made by Swedish Match, with locations in both Kentucky and Sweden.
  • ZYN was developed in Sweden.