It may have been a while since you last traveled—especially on a global scale—but you don’t need to pack a suitcase to consider yourself a global citizen. In fact, knowing how people in other countries shop and live can help you understand the culture so you can empathize more with others and be better prepared for when you do actually visit. One cultural norm that’s growing in many areas of the world is the use of “tobacco-free oral nicotine” products, such as nicotine pouches.
How do other countries use this product? Are they more or less popular overseas than they are here in the U.S.? Get fast facts regarding the history and popularity of nicotine pouches in this guide.
The history of nicotine pouches
First, to know how much the trend has grown, it’s good to know where it started. In 1973, the first tobacco pouches (called “snus”) were launched in Sweden. Granted, these products contained tobacco (unlike nicotine pouches, which do not contain tobacco), but they set the scene for pouch-sized nicotine products that were easy to use and a smoke-free alternative to other products on the market.
In 2016, Swedish Match, the producer behind ZYN, expanded its reach to the U.S. By 2021, ZYN was the top brand in the U.S., with more than 120,000 stores nationwide offering its products. The U.S. currently ranks #1 in the global market as the top consumer of these nicotine pouches.
Widespread nicotine adoption matters
While cigarettes still make up the majority of nicotine sales occurring globally, nicotine pouches are making a dent in the market. Since they are still new, they don’t account for more than 1% of the total nicotine sales in any country where the sales are tracked. But some countries just don’t use nicotine as much as others. Currently, Europe, Western Pacific, and the Americas have a larger nicotine adoption rate compared to the number of people living in each region.
You would expect the pouches to be more popular in these places than in areas like South-East Asia, Africa, and Eastern Mediterranean, where nicotine use is low compared to the population size. Plus, pouches haven't been introduced in many of these areas yet.
Let’s look at some individual regions and what’s happening there.
South-East Asia makes up 26.2% of the global population but accounts for just 6% of nicotine use worldwide. Nicotine pouches make up just 1% of the market, mostly because cigarettes remain the most popular item here. Because the economy suffered so much during the pandemic, newer nicotine products failed to perform well. Indonesia is the only country with a significant nicotine pouch presence. Velo was the first brand to hit the market there in September 2020.
While not illegal in Africa, nicotine pouches are highly regulated, heavily-taxed, and must be marketed and sold under the same tough guidelines as tobacco products. For this reason, there haven’t been many market gains seen here, but the nicotine pouch brands have been working to make them more available. Until that happens, the market share in Africa will likely stay low and not become a popular trend for nicotine use.
Currently, there are few or no nicotine pouch users in this region, which contains the countries of Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, among others.
Without a doubt, tobacco-free oral nicotine products (pouches, in particular) are most popular in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. New brands pop up here frequently, and since smoking cessation aids (like nicotine gum and patches) are widely accepted, it seems natural that nicotine pouches are adopted easily here, too.
In Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, and Denmark), snus are still the top-selling product. But snus are banned within the EU, so pouches are becoming more popular. Pouch users still make up a tiny fraction of the overall nicotine market, but there are many brands sold here, including Lyft, VELO, ZYN, Nordic Spirit, and Skruf. This market is also the fastest-growing of all nicotine categories.
While the Americas make up more than the United States, the U.S. makes up a significant portion of the non-cigarette nicotine use in the region. Just over 71% of the global tobacco-free oral nicotine sales (including pouches) happen here.
Considering that pouches have only been available in the States since 2016, it’s quite impressive how popular they’ve become. They are currently available at most retailers, convenience stores, and grocers. They can also be found online on sites like Prilla, which offers a wide variety of pouches in single varieties and multi-mix packs. You also get free shipping on orders over $50 and can get the products delivered discreetly to your home.
Canada, on the other hand, considers nicotine pouches to be a prescription drug. This makes buying nicotine pouches very difficult. Most nicotine products must be prescribed by a physician for the purpose of smoking cessation treatment. For this reason, the nicotine pouch trend has not grown in Canada at the rate that it has in the lower portion of the continent (U.S.).
Where is nicotine pouch growth happening?
One of the more fascinating aspects of nicotine pouch use is that some areas are adopting the trend much faster than others.
The U.S., for example, saw a growth of more than 50% in the use of ZYN brand nicotine pouches alone, making it the number one brand nationwide. ZYN is currently sold in more than 20 countries worldwide, which means many countries are yet to warm to the trend. Part of this is due to regulation. Some regions have banned all tobacco-free oral nicotine products, such as Africa.
But even with some regions opting out of the growth, the category of nicotine pouches is making an incredible entrance into the global market. The tobacco-free oral nicotine category is set to sell more units globally than smoking cessation aids, such as gum, lozenges, sprays, and patches.
Will the trend continue? That depends. With vaping products more highly regulated than before, and the ability to buy nicotine pouches in more ways (such as online), we think we will see the continued growth of nicotine pouch brands. That’s especially true if they keep coming up with new strengths and flavors.
Are you on-trend?
Choosing to use nicotine pouches is personal, and it shouldn't rely on whether it's trendy or not. However, it’s always best to know the local laws and regulations in the country in which you reside. Different countries (and even states) have different rules for marketing and selling nicotine pouches.
For now, just know that you can typically buy nicotine pouches in the U.S. if you are 21 years old. In some states, you can buy flavored options, too. Ordering online makes it simple, and at Prilla, we check to make sure that you are the right age through our verification process. With safe and secure payment options, you can stay compliant and enjoy the perks of fast shipping.