Recently, I got a new outdoor swimming pool put in. It's not heated, which isn't ideal for swimming in December, but let's jump in anyway and brave the cold. The quicker you do it, the less painful it is!
While we're at it, we can also try zoneX All White #2 nicotine pouches.
Immediately upon glancing at the can, the first thing that struck me was its design and branding. Isn't this the Swedish brand skruf? The packaging is identical to skruf's branding except for the wording. It makes professional Chinese copycats look like total amateurs!
Here is a can of skruf sold in Sweden for comparison:
We flip to the reverse and yes, zoneX is manufactured by Skruf Snus AB which has been partly owned by Imperial Tobacco since 2005.
Why the brand name has been changed while using the exact same branding and design I cannot say for sure. No doubt it is for multiple reasons. Maybe it is to avoid portraying the brand as belonging to big tobacco and the negative associations that can often go with that. Or perhaps the idea is to have a clean break from tobacco-based snus, which has been sold under the skruf brand since 2003.
I would speculate there is also an attempt here to create a new market outside of Sweden, with a product/brand which appeals to a different and perhaps more 'mainstream' (non-traditional snus) crowd. The branding is uncontroversial, clinical and 'clean', and interestingly, no disposable compartment on the lid. I wonder if this is to draw in new users who find the thought of disposing and carrying around used pouches all day a little bit, let's say...off-putting?
In my view, any good quality product which supports smoking cessation is a good thing, regardless of who the shareholders are. In this case, I simply want to highlight and flag the branding similarities between skruf and zoneX in order to avoid any confusion among our readers. The product itself is still manufactured by Skruf AB in Sweden, just under the zoneX brand.
At the time of writing, only one flavour is on offer from zoneX, called 'Fresh Mint'. It is available in two strengths, 6mg (#2) and 10mg (#3). These strengths are relatively low and would certainly suit new users - it is the type of strength I'd recommend to a current smoker/new user or an occasional snus/nicotine pouch consumer such as my dad, for example. Anything higher would make him dizzy.
If higher strengths are demanded by the market in due course, #4, #5 offerings etc would be the logical and obvious response, as has been is the case already for skruf branded products.
On opening the can, the smell, look and feel of the pouches reflects the quality one would expect from Skruf AB. Taste and experience wise, the pouch quality and the pretty common mint flavour gets a thumbs up from me. Some people like a strong and powerful 5 minute nicotine blast and we know from our friends in retail across Europe that such products are selling well. These people wouldn't necessarily want to go for a can of zoneX. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference on that one.
I personally prefer pouches I can enjoy for at least 20 minutes or more and the 6mg strength of zoneX satisfies my own taste. The 'Fresh Mint' flavour held its ground rather well throughout the 20-30 minutes of use, by which time it was ready to go in the bin.
zoneX is a nice product. It is a shame there is only one flavour available at the moment. Also, one or two more higher strengths in the range wouldn't go a miss. I expect this may happen in time. The present 6mg and 10mg strengths on offer are well-suited to new consumers with lower nicotine tolerances or those wishing for a less intense 'hit' of nicotine and the ability to enjoy the pouch experience for a longer period. A smart way to open a new market, for sure.