Hello Nicotine Freaks,
It is nice to be trying something relatively new on the market today and we're going to be taking a look at the BLCK range from Lithuania's Killapods.EU, who conduct their business under the umbrella company N.G.P Tobacco APS.
These guys are responsible for the highly successful KILLA range and for the infamous PABLO pouches, in addition to a plethora of other brands which you can check out on their website. The majority of NGP's products are manufactured in Swedish factories and BLCK is no exception.
BLCK comes in four flavours. Unfortunately we only received three. The missing flavour is 'Watermelon' - I'm slightly sad to have missed this one because it is a flavour which appeals to me and I've enjoyed this flavour from other brands in the past (my cousin even grows the damn things!). Never mind - either it sold out, is still in production or the postman stole it. I'll be extra cautious around the watermelon patch next summer anyway.
The pouches in the BLCK range contain 16mg/g of nicotine, the same as its big brother KILLA and less than its not so cuddly and infamous uncle, 'Pablo'. BLCK may be preferred by those who have enjoyed Killa's products or like using Pablo or higher strength alternatives such as 'Haiza CBD', but want to try something with a little less of a hit to it.
The three flavours we'll be reviewing then are 'Blueberry', 'Cold Mint' and 'Cola'. There's nothing controversial about any of these flavours really, is there? All three flavours are also to be found in the KILLA range which initially lead me to make the pre-judgement that BLCK is basically a rebranded version of KILLA. Let's see.
Ok first of all, what timing for this photo. Daaayum! The bees are voting for 'Cold Mint' - there is not much I can do to argue with that. The camera doesn't lie. OK granted - maybe it does lie a bit since photoshop came along but I can assure you, this little fella just fancied being in the frame, right place, right time.
Cold Mint - it is what it is. No big surprises. A nice flavouring from BLCK, refreshing and cool as the name suggests. I enjoyed it and found it was a particularly pleasant and sharp tasting pouch to start the day off with.
I generally like blueberry flavours, and due to the similarities, it seems logical benchmarking BLCK against the KILLA version. The smell of this one was particularly nice and very similar to KILLA. There were certainly hints of mint in there with the blueberry. This is my favourite out of the three. Berry flavours in general are the second most popular flavouring category in Europe, accounting for approximately 20-25% of all products currently on the market. We expect to see this grow in 2021. Check out Nicotine Freak's flavour report for a detailed analysis of nicotine pouch flavourings on the EU market here.
Not a massively well-represented flavour across the market in general, it'd be great to see more of it. Controversial for some. I have spoken with people who really hate Cola in pouch form. For me it came last out of the three, but I would use it again. It just didn't stand out as much as the Cold Mint or Blueberry - the cola flavour came across mildly and didn't leave the most lasting impression. Each to their own. In drink form I love Cola - its so ubiquitous it is almost like water.
Nowadays however, I have to opt for 'diet' or the less-embarrassing 'Zero' varieties, otherwise I can't have any beer without developing a colossal gut which I am already battling to keep under control during these lock-down conditions. The old metabolism isn't what it was once you hit your early 30s!
German Market Issues
See reverse of the can below - note the strength is the same as KILLA. These samples were clearly destined for the German market as the Deutsch suggests. Germany has been having a few regulatory issues of late which you may have read about in the news. We hope to see these ironed out soon. We see absolutely no logical reason for the German government to ban tobacco-free and smoke free pouches which reduce harm enourmously, meanwhile, allowing cigarettes to be sold in the street out of vending machines and even advertised! Someone high up has go it seriously seriously wrong. If one was to be kind you could say regulators are human too - they don't always get it right and they make mistakes. If one was to be brutally honest, you'd call it an outrageously irresponsible decision. Let's hope that for the sake of public health across Europe, this illogical attitude does not pervade to EU level where Germany is of course highly influential.
Overall, as suspected, I think BLCK is pretty much the same as KILLA just under a different brand name. The pouches look almost identical in size, weight, texture and they are the same strength as well. The KILLA pods are ever so slightly more 'off-white', however.
Let's face it - 'KILLA' is a pretty crazy sounding name and is branded with evil-looking skulls and all the rest of it to suit that vibe. Nothing wrong with that. BLCK on the other hand, is presented in gold reflective tins, with dripping paint 3D textured lettering which in my view has a cleaner and less chaotic branding mood about them. This may appeal to many outside of the 'Killasphere' segment, something it has clearly been intended to do.
Branding and the Importance Targeting/Creating New Markets
While they've certainly been successful, the name 'KILLA' and its vibe may arguably put off some potential new users of nicotine pouches from market segments who don't feel like they are 'invincible' anymore (me! lol).
I am definitely not knocking mad sounding names, I love mad sounding names. I mean, we are called 'Nicotine Freak' but we are not manufacturing and producing pouches for the time being - Nicotine Freak focuses on consulting, impartial reviewing, educating, promoting and creating new markets across the entire nicotine/CBD pouch industry - for manufacturers, retailers, brands and end consumers. We chose our name because it bluntly encapsulates who we are and it is a name that sticks in your head and gives you nightmares!
BLCK is somewhat more tame in respect of its branding and definitely fills a void in NGP's product mix. I can't see my father, for example, buying something called KILLA with a skull on it. I have to admit I'm in the same boat. I could see him buying BLCK though - it looks more sensible. My old man, a smoker back in his youth, is a light user of traditional snus and nicotine pouches. He did, of his own accord, buy a can of Pablo in Germany a few weeks back - I did warn him - it turned out to be too strong for him. Facepalm! He should have gone for BLCK - I think he'd have enjoyed them and I'll probably get him a can or two in the mail once mail actually works properly again!
If you like KILLA, give BLCK a try - why not? To new users, if you think KILLA is a bit over the top for you in terms of branding, have no fear, BLCK is here as an option - it is a wise addition to the product/brand mix on the part of NGP.
Until next time, all the best from Nicotine Freak - take care everyone and stay safe.