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KT&G to expand business in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

By Kim Jae-heun

The country’s top cigarette maker KT&G launched a new e-cigarette, lil SOLID 2.0, in four countries — Armenia and Serbia in Eastern Europe and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia in the second quarter of this year.

Lil SOLID 2.0 is the latest version of the lil SOLID series the tobacco firm introduced in 2017, upgrading the gadget’s design and performance. Lil SOLID is a tobacco heating device used to smoke Fiit tobacco sticks. The new version was launched first in the local market in January and customers have given positive responses for the longer battery life offered by the device and its induction heater system.

KT&G is offering its e-cigarette device in the four countries: in two colors stone grey and cosmic blue. It will introduce seven types of tobacco sticks, including Fiit REGULAR, Fiit REGULAR SKY and Fiit CRISP ― although types may vary according to each market.

KT&G already entered overseas markets in August 2020, with Russia as the first export country for its very first lil SOLID product. One month later, the tobacco firm started selling the e-cigarette in Ukraine as well.

In the following month, KT&G also advanced into the Japanese market with lil HYBRID 2.0 and MIXX. The product was only available in Fukuoka and Miyagi first, but after the item gained popularity in just four months, KT&G decided to expand across the country.

Lil HYBRID adopts independent liquid cartridges on a tobacco-heating element producing a less-steamed tobacco taste and a uniform smoking experience from start to finish.

Japan is globally the largest consumer of e-cigarettes and is a market where various products are vying for market share. Industry sources say that KT&G’s hybrid e-cigarette successfully differentiates itself from the existing products and has received positive feedback.

KT&G is now exporting the lil SOLID series to seven countries and plans to ship them to more countries in the near future.

“Our product, lil, is gaining popularity in the export markets thanks to our collaboration with Philip Morris International,” Lim Wang-seop, head of KT&G NGP Business Division, said during a conference call held in February. “We originally set a goal of entering a single-digit number of countries this year, but we have changed it to the double digits.”

Experts note KT&G’s innovation and speed as keys to the tobacco firm’s e-cigarette success. Lil SOLID was introduced after Philip Morris’ IQOS and British American Tobacco’s Glo.

However, KT&G studied customers’ feedback on the two rivals’ products and paid attention to quality control to avoid defects in their newly launched heating device and tobacco sticks.