In our last article we covered some of the federal, state and local legislative and regulatory obstacles you might be facing as a business owner. This time around we’ll discuss what to look for in an e-Liquid manufacturer to help best position your business for success—regardless of what happens in the political realm.
As we discussed, no matter how far the regulatory action extends, one given is that the various governing bodies will enact rules with regard to quality control standards and sales restrictions. And that’s a great place to start with our discussion.
Production: The market is loaded with e-Liquid manufacturers of varying reputability. Some are multi-million dollar companies with clean-room environments that test for inhalation hazards and attempt to ensure transparency and accountability with their customers. On the other end of the spectrum are companies that are mixing made-to-order flavors in the sink. So what should you look for in an e-Liquid manufacturer?
To begin with, it’s important to know what’s in the e-Liquid. While many companies regard their actual e-Liquid recipes as proprietary information, the test results that indicate whether inhalable hazards are present are not proprietary. Those are incredibly important tools in discerning whether or not a company is a good choice to do business with. You are looking for inhalation hazards like Diacetyl or Acetyl Propionyl – both of which can damage lung function – and to see that they are not present in any of the e-Liquids being produced by these companies.
Once you get beyond screening for hazards, there’s a multitude of other factors to consider as well:
• Where does this company blend its products? Ideally you want manufacturers with well-built laboratory facilities that include clean room environments.
• Where does this company source its ingredients from? Is it US Pharmacopeia-grade nicotine? What about the propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin being used? Again, this information should all be presented up front.
• What does the company’s production process look like? Do they pre-steep the products to allow the flavors to marry properly before shipping? Do they take special care to store ingredients and finished e-Liquids in the correct conditions? These practices affect quality and taste.
This may sound like a lot of information, but it all goes back to two basic tenants of making good e-Liquid: quality and consistency. The two go hand-in-hand. You want to do business with companies that pay the utmost attention to quality control, because it ensures you’re getting a safe product that will consistently taste and vape the same. This creates return sales. If your customers know what they’re getting every time they purchase from a brand – the same consistent taste, vapor production and overall quality – they’re going to keep coming back.
Packaging: Moving on, one of the next things to consider when it comes to picking which e-Liquid manufacturers to do business with is their packaging and labeling. In a regulated landscape, packaging standards will be a big part of the deal.
That’s why you want to find companies that already hold themselves to responsible packaging standards. First and foremost that means child-proof caps. E-Liquid, especially the sort that contains nicotine, can be extremely hazardous if misused or consumed by children or animals. Child-proof caps are a no-brainer and any company that isn’t already using them is positioning itself for trouble once the FDA and other governing bodies hand down new rules.
Labeling requirements will also be a large part of the regulatory package, both in the US and in Europe. This has the potential to affect a large percentage of the market. However, many forward-looking manufacturers have been in compliance with these eventual regulations for a while now. These companies already list ingredients and nicotine levels right on their labeling so there is never any confusion as to what is being vaped. These are all basic practices that have been used in the food and pharmaceutical industries for years and make no doubt about it, they will soon be part of the vaping industry too.
Then there is a third level of responsible packaging/labeling that isn’t being followed by all manufacturers, but helps to differentiate the more well-positioned e-Liquid companies from the rest. This includes practices like including lot numbers and best-by dating on all labels. Lot numbers allow each batch of e-Liquid to be sourced, so that in the case something goes wrong it’s immediately evident which lot it came from, where the ingredients were sourced from and who mixed it. This will help your business in the event that a recall would ever be necessary.
Similarly, best-by dating allows consumers to know when an e-Liquid is at its peak flavor. While e-Liquid may go bad due to expired ingredients, it can also steep for too long and take on a flavor that the manufacturer never intended. Again, with a product as intimate as e-Liquid this is information that should accompany any product you sell.
If a manufacturer you’re considering doesn’t already practice these packaging and labeling standards think long and hard about doing business with them. When regulations are handed down, they will be forced to revisit their packaging and that could mean an interruption on their end in terms of product availability. There’s no better way to lose part of your customer base than to run out of product—especially when it’s beyond your control as to when you can restock.
Branding: Also, pay attention to branding. A lot of e-Liquid companies like to pick edgy names and market their products by giving them similar packaging to popular candies and cereals. This may pay dividends in the short run, but long-term they’re putting themselves and possibly your business at risk. Depending on how stringent the regulation that gets handed down is, a lot of these companies could disappear, or at the very least may have to rebrand—neither of which is good for you as a business owner.
Truth be told, manufacturers and companies that are taking this tact are largely responsible for the negative scrutiny the vaping industry receives when it is accused of marketing towards kids. This is a time of uncertainty around the industry and depending on how stringent the FDA – along with local and state governments – decides to be, they could find themselves out of business when regulations and rules are handed down.
Insurance: Finally, it shouldn’t be news to you that we live in a litigious society. It’s your responsibility to know if a manufacturer carries a product liability policy for their goods in the same way you would make sure a contractor has insurance before starting work on your house. Any responsible manufacturer, regardless of what industry they’re in, ensures that their customers, employees, and the company are protected with the proper insurance.
In many cases your manufacturer may already have product liability insurance and you may not even know it. So ask, and while you’re at it, ask if you can be named as an “additional insured.” This is usually a nominal fee for the policy holder and a cost that the manufacturer will most likely pay on your behalf, as it’s considered a cost of doing business.
You can’t afford to gamble with any of the topics discussed above, and quite honestly there’s no need to. There are plenty of manufacturers out there that can check all the boxes – giving you a wide variety of product options while holding themselves to responsible manufacturing and packaging standards – without cutting corners or taking risks that will put your business in jeopardy should the government choose to go the direction of stringent regulation.
As vaping advocates, it’s up to us to move the industry forward in a responsible manner.
Join us next time when we discuss hardware, what it is, what it does, and the direction it may be taking in the next few years as the industry continues to evolve. SVBS
Jeff Stamler is a co-founder of NicoPure Labs, the parent company of Halo and eVo. After starting the company in 2009 he has overseen its growth into one of the leaders of the vaping industry. Today he presides over NicoPure from its headquarters in Trinity, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected], or by phone at 888 270 2449, or visit their website at www.nicopure.com.