- Category: V2 Tobacco reviews
- Created on Thursday, 19 July 2012 14:07
- Written by ThatSnusGuy
- Hits: 12768
Welcome back Snustopians!
Well, as we learned in the last article, not all Swedish snus is made in Sweden. While the credit for it's conception seems to have gone to Sweden, it's now proven that Denmark did indeed produce snus back in the early 1800's, at the same time that some of the early Swedish snus brands, like Ettan for example, were being produced! While that was over 150 years ago, the tradition of snus making in Denmark continues with V2 tobacco and their Thunder, Offroad and Phantom brands of Danish made, Swedish snus. "You told us all about that in the last article Snus Guy! We want to know about how they make it!" And in this article, we will go thru a tour of the new V2 plant and how two Americans were privileged enough to work on the manufacturing lines to see just how, exactly, V2 makes their world renowned snus brands. So sit back, pop in a portion of Thunder Cool Mint and let's see just how they do it!
I know what you all are thinking, "Didn't you already tell us how Swedish snus was made when you saw Swedish Match's factories in 2009 Snus Guy? How is this article going to be different?". Well, as a matter of fact I did give everyone in Snustopia a "Virtual Tour" of the factories and of the Swedish Match way of manufacturing snus. As I sat here these past few weeks, trying to decide how I would do the article, I went back and read thru "Swedish snus! The first American review of the snus manufacturing process!". I started to realize that some of the things I reported back then, really don't hold true now and the access we were given at V2's plant was much more hands on as opposed to the "Don't touch anything" rules at Swedish Match's facilities. For example, at Swedish Match we were allowed to enter the production floor but, couldn't touch anything. At V2, not only were we allowed to touch the machines, we were allowed to work the lines so, I knew this had to be a more in-depth article. So, with that in mind, lets go forward and see how Patrick, Marc and all the great folks at V2 Tobacco make their snus!
Before we begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Patrick and Marc Vogel, owners of V2 Tobacco, for inviting me to Denmark and allowing me to experience and work in their factory. It was an unforgettable experience that I'll never forget. I also want to thank Nils, Martin and all the great people that work for V2 for sharing their stories, knowledge and hospitality while I was there. It's their knowledge, commitment to quality and dedication that really shines thru in the products they produce. Keep up the great work guys!
The first stop in the plant is where the unprocessed tobacco is stored. Unlike the huge tobacco storage lockers that were in the Swedish Match facilities, The tobacco storage is right where it needs to be at V2, in front of the grinding room. As you can see in the picture on the left, the storage racks can hold alot of raw material! The tobaccos that V2 uses in their snus is a mix from all over the world including the U.S.. One of the things that makes V2's snus unique from its competitors is the fact that they only use five different types of tobaccos in it's snus where the others can use up to twenty. The tobaccos that V2 uses are already aged and ready for the next step in the process, separating and grinding!
While I was impressed with the things I saw and learned in both tours, this was one of the things that really impressed me with V2. When I was in Swedish Match's plant, we saw the grinding process and were able to touch the tobacco and see it ground which was cool. At the V2 plant we were not allowed in the grinding room. In fact, nobody was allowed in the grinding room. Not because it held secrets or because they were trying to hide anything but because of the particulate matter the grinding process kicks up. All the tobacco dust generated by the milling machines while they were running would make it dangerous to walk in there without respirators. Now, don't think that there's so much dust you can't see anything, in fact, I asked Patrick "What Dust?". The fact of the matter was that V2 is so concerned about safety that they felt it was better to keep the room sealed off. I did get to see the process though thru a row of windows in the door and I was surprised at what I saw!
Not only did I see the milling machines but I was also surprised to see the leaves were seperated from the stems and ribs. "Hey Snus Guy, why would that surprise you? nobody uses those parts, right?". Wrong actually! All snus manufacturers, all tobacco product manufacturers for that matter, use stems and ribs in one way or another. V2 uses them to manage the Nicotine content in the final product. What most big tobacco manufacturers don't do is separate them prior to milling. Separating them from the leaf gives V2 better control of what goes into the snus as well as saving the millers from working so hard. Once the tobacco has been milled, its transferred to storage hoppers to await the next step, steaming and flavoring!
The steaming and flavoring room really reminded me of the commercial kitchens I used to work in when I was young. All white tile and spotlessly clean stainless steel everywhere. This is where the white jacket and hair net zone begins. V2 Tobacco adheres to the same strict rules of cleanliness that manufacturers in Sweden do which includes changing jackets and hair nets each time you leave a clean area, washing and disinfecting your hands prior to working the machines and safety glasses wherever required. When a new batch of snus is needed, a computer transfers the needed amounts of tobacco from the storage hoppers thru pipes and into the steamers. Once there, the tobacco steams until it reaches the right temperature and is then injected with the flavorings. Once injected, the tobacco is allowed to cool down prior to processing. Once cooled to the correct temperature, it's transferred to the machines for packaging. It's here where they allowed the clumsiest Snustopian alive to work some magic.........the snus lines!
To say I was nervous would be an understatement. All I could think about the entire nine hour flight to Denmark was how something I did could break a machine and cost thousands of dollars of damage and I'd be banned from the country. In fact, I had a dream that I was Larry the Cable Guy and all I could say was "It wasn't me....It wasn't me!!" while snus cans and portions flew from one of the machines. Now that I'm actually at the production lines, It's nothing like that, thank god! The production processes for both loose and portion snus are really pretty fascinating. Let's begin with the loose line since it's the first line I got to run!
Actually, running a snus line isn't really as hard as one might think. I say this because the actually "running" of the machine is controlled by computers, much like the one on the right. What makes it challenging is when an issue arises. Anyway, here's the basic way it works. You feed freshly cooled snus into the feed hopper. In another hopper, empty cans go in and in yet another hopper, tops. Once the machine is switched on, a pre-measured amount of snus drops into an empty can and tamped down. The tamping allows for the tops to be placed on easily. After the tops are placed on, the sealed cans run over a scale to see if the weight falls within the specified parameters. If it does, it continues on to the elevator and to labeling. If not, it's shot off the line into a hopper where its contents are recycled back into the system.
The elevator system is really fascinating! "Snus Guy, how can an elevator be fascinating?" Well, it's not so much the elevator its self, more like what the elevator does! So what does this unit pictured on the right do, you may be asking? It actually does two things. One, it provides a cushion of time between the snus packing machine and the labeler, incase the processes before this unit hiccups. Two, it gives the snus some time to settle prior to the final steps. It actually takes roughly thirty minutes for a can to go thru this machine and can be stopped without stopping the entire line which is good since it takes about a minute or two to put a new roll of labels in the labeler. As for the labeler, remember back in the first article about V2 and the hand made labeling machine? Well, in the new factory, the labelers now place all labels on the cans in a few seconds each as opposed to the old way which took 10 times longer since the top and bottom labels still had to be applied by hand. So, let's take a look at the portion runs!
There are actually 3 lines that produce portion snus. Two of them run original portions and one runs White portions. "Snus Guy!!! V2 doesn't make white portions, right?" actually, yes they do! The Phantom line has white portions as does the Offroad and SnusX lines. The original portion lines are pretty hi-tech and start by adding snus, a bit dryer than the loose snus, to the machines hopper. From here, the snus is portioned out and placed in the teabag type portion material. The way this is achieved is pretty much the same method that potato chip companies use to package chips but on a much smaller scale. After the snus is incased in the portion material, a small bit of water is dripped on the portion and then placed in the can. From here, the process pretty much mimics the final processes of loose snus but with one difference I thought was neat! After the lids are placed on the cans, the catch lid is placed on in a separate, yet automated, process. Up until now, I thought they were already put on prior to delivery to the factory. Yes...yes, ThatSnusGuy can be taught!!
The white portion line is really something to see! It's a unique machine that can produce up to 16 portions at a time and be retrofitted in a matter of minutes to accommodate whatever V2 is producing that day, from Phantom Blue white to buckets of SnusX or zip pack refills of Phantom white! It's really an amazing machine to see in action! The day we were there, was a half day so we also got to see just how meticulous the team at V2 is at shut down time! Yes, at the end of every day or, between each type of snus, these guys breakdown and clean each machine! Each and every part that comes in contact with the snus is taken apart, cleaned and sanitized and reassembled, ready for the next day or snus flavor. Again, this step is just one more reason why V2 Tobacco produces some of the most popular snus brands!
After the cans are filled and labeled, another machine gathers 10 cans, shrink wraps them and places a batch label on the roll. The rolls are then placed in boxes by hand (a skill that yours truly was really good at!) and stacked on pallets, ready to be shipped out to retailers around the world! It's really impressive to see how V2 can do this at full speed, which averages about 2000 portions an hour per machine, and without the highly skilled and dedicated team V2 has working these machines, those numbers could never be reached!
So, Snustopians, you may be asking yourselves, "Snus Guy, what's your opinion on the V2 Tobacco factory? Is it good or bad?". Well, as you all know, I try to do all my reviews as unbiased as I possibly can so that you as Snustopians can form your own opinions. But, when it comes to reviewing snus factories, it's a bit harder to stick to that mantra. Overall, My time in Denmark at V2 Tobacco was awesome, to put it mildly. While my time in Sweden at Swedish Match was also an awesome experience, the trip to V2 really does top the Swedish Match trip. This was due to the hands-on experience that Patrick and Marc allowed both Julls at SnusCENTRAL.org and I to have and the access they gave us. What most impressed me was the complete dedication to produce the best products they can that seemed to be reflected in each and every person working there. That and the atmosphere of being a fun place to work!
Patrick and Marc's commitment to making the best snus in the world is a vision that's shared throughout their entire organization. From the guys out in the field selling their products to the great folks that produce it and the designers making the labels, each person shares this vision and it's what, in my mind, makes V2 Tobacco one of the best in the business!
Well Snustopians, I hope you found this final installment of "Swedish snus in Denmark" informative and will help you on your journey in learning more about Swedish snus. As always, I welcome any comments or suggestions and will try to answer them as soon as I can.
That Snus Guy