Blow: The New Caffienated Energy Powder

Red Bull was introduced to the US in 1997 and became the pioneering leader. Since then, the market has exploded. By 2001, retail sales of energy drinks had grown to nearly $8 million. Over the last six years it grew an average of over 50%. In 2006 sales were nearly $4 billion and research firms predict that by 2010 the energy drink market will be bringing as much as $10 billion in sales.

With so much potential for growth and profit, the market is understandably flooded with companies feverishly eager to get rich riding the wave of popularity. The store shelves of convenience stores everywhere are stacked to the ceiling with all kinds of varieties of this legal drug. Each shiny, glimmering can and bottle promises in some way to supercharge your body with energy. Usually done with a caustic concoction of chemicals, huge amounts of sugar and bull urine.

Approximately 65% of energy drink users are under the age of 35, with males representing approximately 65% of the market. With those kind of numbers, its easy to see why the companies are targeting young guys. And naturally, the logical angle the companies are using to bring em in with is sex and drugs.

Remember Cocaine energy drink? Cocaine came out last year, marketed as "the legal alternative" to its namesake. The company figured the name of the product would create enough controversy to cause word-of-mouth "viral marketing" to push the product along. The problem is, the name created too much controversy. A group of moralistic law school students decided to file an official objection to the product. The FDA decided the company was "illegally marketing their drink as an alternative to street drugs" and the manufacturer was forced to pull its product and rename it. Personally I thought it tasted like crap, but that really is beside the point.

Despite the marketing backfire that occurred with Cocaine, a new up-and-coming energy company is always eager to fill the void. With the demand for shelf space at a premium, alternatives to the canned drinks are starting to emerge as a way to stand out from the crowd. Energy powders now seem to have a strong appeal for portability and ease of use.

And thus we have "Blow." An energy mix, manufactured as a white powder and packaged in clear plastic vials. Cheap to manufacture, the cliche icon of a vial of white powder is already ingrained into everyone's head, so this design is really genius in its simplicity. To prevent people from getting the wrong idea should they spot a suspicious looking vial of white powder sitting in your bag, the vials are conveniently overwrapped in black shrink plastic that you remove when you open it.

The company's Myspace page feels like a Scorsese movie. They clearly know the audience they want. The page is filled with sexy mostly naked babes, all partying it up, and decorated with strategically placed stickers that say "I love Blow" (with a tiny "Dot Com" next to it.)

OK, so we know who they are going after. All gimmicks aside, how does it taste and work as an energy drink?

At the end of a long day yesterday, I received a box that contained a sample of Blow. The directions say to dump the contents into 16 ounces of water and stir. Overall my sample didn't mix very well and left a few clumps at the bottom of the glass. There is hardly any color and for the most part still looks like water.

Tasting it, I'd say it has a citrusy flavor. The list of ingredients are printed very small on the back of the cardboard package the vial was glued to, and to be honest, I didn't really care what was in it, so long as it worked. The taste wasn't bad. Its not carbonated, so the taste is going to be different than most other products. It certainly doesn't taste like liquid sweet tarts the way most energy drinks seem to. Blow seemed very mild. Tasty, but nothing too overly-sugary or tart.

Lets get one thing clear here: There is very little that is chemically similar between this energy drink and the illegal drug this product playfully pretends to be. Trying to compare it to that would be ridiculous.

However, having said that, I have to say that as far as energy goes, I didn't feel much difference. I finished the drink, watched TV for about an hour, took a shower and went to bed. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. However I only slept about 4 hours but still feel pretty refreshed, so perhaps it had a few things in it that worked for me.

Clearly, Blow's main drive is its name and image. The company employs the usual assortment of viral marketing tactics to help move the product. Whether or not the product is any good seems utterly irrelevant to the gimmick the company uses to get attention with. If it can keep its nose clean and stay out of the clutches of overly-moral watchdog groups, there's a chance this one might stick around a while.

If the product takes off, expect copycat products to start popping up.

But what's next, a caffeinated breath mint called "Extasy?" Or better yet, how about a caffiene-filled chewing gum called "Black Cock" with a picture of a big black rooster on the label, of course. That way you could market it with slogans like "chomp down on Black Cock" or "Once you have Black Cock in your mouth, you'll never go back." The grade-school jokes and puns are just overwhelming.

Blow seems like a gimmicky way to push an energy supplement. Its taste is not bad and its energy output seems pretty good, but the conotations of it being similar to the street drug may end up causing more harm than good when it comes to publicity. Of course there are still those out there that argue that there's no such thing as bad publicity, and to a certain extent this is correct. But if the backlash for the product becomes too great, Blow could meet the same end as its other drug-themed counterparts: extinct.


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