We've had an interesting and rather unusual couple of weeks on the Greek mainland and across the country's 2000+ islands.
A snow blizzard combined with gale-force winds descended upon us from the north, wreaking havoc on this usually sun-blessed mountainous peninsula, damaging infrastructure as far south as the island of Crete, which is closer to Libya than it is to Athens!
The storm was dubbed "Medea" in Greece. In Greek mythology, she was the granddaughter of the sun god Helios (think 'heliotherapy') and famous for being abandoned for another woman by her famous lover Jason and his Argonauts, despite Medea playing a crucial role in helping him find the famed golden fleece. In a rage, she ended up murdering her children, in addition to several other acts of horrific vengeance. She was understandably a very upset demi-god, although her acts are not overly extreme in the grand scheme of Ancient Greek mythology (scarily)! Medea is a suitable name for what happened next.
Medea caused electricity, water, Wi-Fi and phone signal to go offline for an entire week. That pretty much covers all the basics of life in 2021! I've been living in a fridge with only books, packets of crisps, nuts and candlelight as comforts. No hard feelings from me Medea, we all make mistakes and I'm a forgiving person. Interestingly, despite being cut off from basically everything, my sleep patterns and mood improved tremendously. We humans aren't supposed to be disrupting our Circadian rhythm by remaining up into the early hours looking into the bright screens of various digital devices but I would guess most of us know this and still do it anyway. It was an eye-opener in this sense but I was relieved to have a warm bath and communications with the outside world again as you may well imagine!
As usual, I digress! Back to the topic at hand. Today we are 'travelling the world' with YOYO, a nicotine pouch brand from Nordic Noir Holdings.
Company History, People, Location, Brand
Nordic Noir is headquartered in Hong Kong and founded by two Swedes, Per (CEO) and Steen (CCO) and is somewhat of a nice family concern, with both their sons also working to support their dads in growing the business. After a couple of video calls I can say they are a very friendly group of people who I'd certainly pop in to visit next time I'm in Hong Kong, one of my favourite cities in the world, having spent over a year living there myself. It is indeed deserving of the title 'Pearl of Asia' and was an 'escape' for me when I needed a break from Mainland China and internet censorship. Manufacturing of YOYO is carried out in India with a sub-entity in Sweden responsible for distribution across European markets. A very international setup.
The flavour range reflects this international vibe, each named after a cool international city. The brand leaves one with the impression of a hip 'urbanite' vibe with a customer profile targeted at those trendy souls aged between 20 - 40, living in urban environments. This is not to say the product cannot be enjoyed by those older than that or those living in the middle of nowhere (me for example!). I've got some time before hitting 40 to go yet, but as it edges ever closer the idea that "life begins at 40" is becoming increasingly appealing!
YOYO launched in 2019 under the Latin motto, “Non Ducor, Duco” (“I am not led, I lead”). Since their inception, Nordic Noir have had significant success getting their product onto retail markets and you will find YOYO on sale among most major online retailers. Their next logical step would be to enter more physical locations and new markets at national level, as many other brands would also like to do. However, under lockdown conditions this is understandably harder than usual given the absolute hammering physical retail has taken over the past year.
Sold in single cans or in 5 or 10 can rolls, YOYO is also available to physical retailers, stores and supermarkets inside an attractive display box as well.
The Cans and the Pouches
The cans themselves feature attractive and colourful branding as you can see above. Their construction is pretty typical - sturdy along with disposable lid cap. Nicotine strength per gram is clearly indicated on the front and reverse of each can. In addition, the flavourings of each 'city' name are clearly indicated.
The pouches themselves are reasonable in terms of their construction quality. There is room for improvement and YOYO doesn't particularly stand out in this regard. We've certainly seen better but we've also seen many (from well-known brands) that are far far worse. I prefer a full, soft and pillow-like type of nicotine pouch personally, and YOYO falls somewhere in the middle on this one.
The Flavours and Strengths
At the time of writing, YOYO is stocked in 4 flavours which come in 4 different strengths to suit all consumers, ranging from 20mg to 9mg of nicotine per gram:
Stockholm (20mg) - Liquourice and Mint - the newest addition to the YOYO range. No doubt the Swedes would be happy to buy something with their charming capital city emblazoned on it. Unfortunately, I dislike liquorice intensely unless it comes in the form of Ouzo. Some people hate Marmite - I love Marmite. It's just the way it goes sometimes. I know my business partner, Richard Crosby, is a big liquorice fan. For those out there that like Liquorice, this might be the one for you.
New York (15mg) - Mint - Every brand needs a mint flavour. Mint accounts for practically half of all nicotine pouches sold across the European market. You can find analysis of nicotine pouch flavours sold within the European market (including the UK which is in Europe) by reading Nicotine Freak's flavour report. YOYO's mint is pleasant, cool and refreshing but, you know, mint is mint really. It is almost compulsory for every pouch nicotine pouch brand to have a mint offering. Some brands even offer only mint. It is uncontroversial as a flavour and hard to "stand out" in the pure mint department. In combination with other flavours, however, it is a different story altogether.
London (12mg) - Lime, Strawberry, Mint - My favourite - and not because I hold a UK passport or the fact my mother is from London. After cracking open the can, the smell was simply fantastic, a fresh and rich aroma of strawberries rears its pretty head, really striking a chord for me and combining nicely with lime and mint overtones. I love this one in terms of flavour, in addition to it coming in and at my preferred strength - it'll be the first out of YOYO's samples I finish. A real winning flavour and strength combination.
Havana (9mg) - Mojito - my second favourite. I've probably consumed far too many Mojito's in my lifetime, mostly in sunny California where I was student and for good reason. Salt fringed Mojito's are just awesome. It is an all-round winning flavour. I don't know anyone personally that dislikes drinking Mojito's for that more tropical experience and to have it in pouch form is a no-brainer in my view. Despite this, it is rather underrepresented in the market but I would not be surprised to see many more Mojito flavours emerge as we progress into 2021/22. The smell did not stand out quite as much as London did, but it was very pleasant and at 9mg, YOYO's Mojito may be the best place to start for those consumers who are new to nicotine pouches.
It is possible we may be seeing more flavours from YOYO this year - although I cannot confirm this. It could be any city I suppose - at present they have names to suit three vital nicotine pouch growth markets - The US, the UK and Sweden (I am not so sure about communist Cuba, but you can never say never). Where will they travel next? Your guess is as good as mine!
YOYO is a solid debut from Nordic Noir with a simple flavour product mix and slick branding. I very much like the international cities idea behind the brand's messaging. It certainly aligns well with the founders personal histories, a group of Swedes based in Hong Kong who have worked, lived and studied all over the world throughout their lives.
End consumers - if you haven't tried YOYO and would like to give something new a try, give them a go and see how they hit for you. There is something in their range to please all.
Retailers - YOYO is an ever increasingly well-known brand and worth stocking in your portfolio. I think the future looks bright for Nordic Noir - get in touch with their friendly team for more information on how to get it onto your shelves or website!
Have a fantastic week everyone.