TPE24 | Interview with Distributor DemandVape: Seeking Innovative Products, Expanding into South America
The Total Product Expo 24 (TPE 24) in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, was officially opened on 31 January at 12:00 US West Time (4:00 BST on 1 February). 2FIRSTS spoke with Tim, Senior Sales Manager of US distributor DemandVape, on the show floor.
Tim emphasised China's leadership in e-cigarette innovation. The company represents brands including SPACEMAN, SMOK and RABBEATS, of which OFF-STAMP 9000 and GEEKBAR are popular in the US market. He also emphasised the importance of eco-friendly modular design, predicting a shift in market trends towards more environmentally friendly products, and revealed that the company is expanding its international presence with an eye on the South American market. Regarding FDA regulation, Mauda said the company is actively cooperating and is looking forward to a fairer approval process.
Below is the dialogue:
2FIRSTS: What do you think about this convention?
DemandVape: It's been a good show. It's very big this year. There are a lot of very good products out. You know, the innovation coming out of China is very nice. It's really nice seeing people move the ball forward.
2FIRSTS: Which brands do you bring to the show?
DemandVape: Our company is the premier distributor in the U.S., so I think we have ten brands here featuring all the major players, including SPACEMAN, SMOK, and RABBEATS. Hydra is over here too. So there's a lot of up-and-coming brands that we're featuring.
2FIRSTS: Which brands are most popular in the market?
DemandVape: It's a head-to-head race between the OFF-STAMP 9000 and the GEEKBAR. Those are the two premier brands right now that are doing the best in the US market to share their best.
2FIRSTS: We’ve heard the RABBEATS and the OFF-STAMP are the new best sellers…
DemandVape: Yes. The RABBEATS has a touch screen that I came out with, which I believe is the first touch screen. Disposable off stamp is a modular disposable. So you have a power bank and then a smaller disposable that attaches so that customers can just they can keep the power bank and they can then swap out the disposable, which is giving them a larger battery. But also they're not throwing out such a little bit. So there's a lot less waste is a lot better for the environment because they get to keep a large battery and they're just throwing out the disposable stuff.
2FIRSTS: Which one do you think they're far better in the market?
DemandVape: I think some off standard's going to do the best. Our customers are really enjoying the flavors that are out of it. They like the modular system. It's a little bit better for the pocketbook, for the customer, and it's helping the environment. I know there's a big waste issue in this market, and being able to save the larger lithium battery and use that for months is a big benefit to consumers.
And I hope that the market itself shifts towards more of an environmentally friendly space because it is starting to become an issue for us.
2FIRSTS: How many brands does DemandVape have? We’ve heard there are around a hundred.
DemandVape: We're pushing close to 505 mobiles and then total SKUs, we're right around 25,000 to 30,000 now, including coils and tanks and mugs and batteries and disposables and alternatives. The section that we have for like the eagle goods and the batteries. So, we do everything in the DemandVape.
2FIRSTS: Among all the brands, how do you choose which product to do the marketing on?
DemandVape: We have a team that kind of makes the decision I want to bring in and what not to bring in. We're a relationship-based company. We have our contacts or our manufacturers that we deal with a lot in China. We support them as best we can and they support us the best they can. And it's a great symbiotic relationship we have with them. We work with them and they work with us. And, we're able to get pricing and quality. We do all the quality control and the flavor testing and we test the prototypes of on that to get the final product to market. And so, yeah, it's, it's exciting, it's fun.
2FIRSTS: So which aspects of the product do you look into when deciding to bring it to the market?
DemandVape: Functionality. We're always looking for innovation. We really appreciate companies that are trying to do something different. Like OFF-STAMP is a great example. there's nothing on the market that's like it and we really like them coming in and showing us something new. There's a lot of devices that are just re-wraps of something else, same shape and the shape in China, they make this mold and then they sell to 20 to 30 different brands. And then we see all of them come through and we kind of decide either based on the relationship that we have with the company that's pushing it or how much marketing they're going to put behind the brand that that matters. How much support we have from the manufacturer that takes factor into it. And then again, it's nice and it's nice and it's high quality.
And if we think that the US market is going to gravitate towards that, we take the risk on it.
2FIRSTS: So there are a lot of brands and companies in China that want to deal with DemandVape. So how do you select which product to bring?
DemandVape: It's not easy. And there's a lot of brands, there's a lot of competition in the space. And it's very hard to start a new brand. The best thing you can do is be different. Look at the current market and don't do what they're doing yet. Do think about what's going to be popular in six months, How can I make this better either for the customer, for the environment, for the user experience, what can I do differently? You can't just take a module you're buying from a manufacturer and toss a label on that. It is not going to do well. You have to you move the ball forward to really stand out, especially in this market.
2FIRSTS: Right now the popularity is on touch screen products. In the future which function do you think will become more popular?
DemandVape: I don't know. Something new comes up every single week with something new, which is exciting. I don't know what direction it's going to go in. I know that durable batteries are popular among customers but I know that shops are not super keen on it because they want to see their customers again. And dual tanks are off the table now. I've seen dual screen, touch screen, full animation, and custom animations.
I think 2024 is going to be all screens - big screens, touchscreens. But I have no idea what 2025 is going to bring. It could be something completely coming out of this field.
2FIRSTS: The DemandVape has been like the top distributors in the market. We know there are other competitors. Yeah. And how do you keep the first piece in a nutshell?
DemandVape: We work very closely with all of the major distributors. And there was a time when it was a little more cutthroat. But we've realized that it's better to work together than to fight each other. When you fight each other, it just drives the price down. That happens and no one wins. We are happy we have a great relationship with all the other large distributors.
And it's much better to work together than to try to fight each other for customers. So yeah, so we work very closely with all of the large players just to try to keep the market stable for the US.
2FIRSTS: Does DemandVape plan to expand outside the US?
DemandVape: Yeah, we are currently expanding into South America we're looking at other markets. There are a lot of consumers out there, not just us. The US is obviously the largest market for us. We know that there's definitely other players out there and we love to work with them. It's just a matter of making the connections and figuring out the logistics of it just a little bit, a little bit tougher than just shipping to Florida.
But we know that there's this whole world out there to go after. And I'm hoping that, as we expand and as we grow, we're going to start tapping into those markets.
2FIRSTS: So FDA is having the PMTA application as regulation on the product. Does this affect the markets?
DemandVape: It definitely has a large effect on the market. We try to do everything that we can to stay within FDA guidelines as best that we can, considering the hurdles that we have.
There's been some positive court cases that go in our and the industry's favor. We're hoping that the FDA kind of clears up a pathway to get these through. But that's still a big hurdle that we that we have, obviously.
And it's something that we're actively trying to work with the FDA to make common sense and a smooth transition for approval.
We know that there's a lot of red tape. There's a lot of it's not necessarily fair processes. But we're trying our hardest to work with the industry to make positive changes with FDA.
2FIRSTS: Do you think the regulation will be more strict in the future? Do you have any plans?
DemandVape: I feel like the strictest it's going to be right now. They are trying decisions to open up a lot of pathways for us to fight for equal treatment for the PMTA process, where it's overwhelmingly big tobacco products that have been approved. And we think with this new decision that we have a little bit more leverage to get more products approved or at least a cleaner process or transparent process.
So we're hoping that in the near future we're going to be able to start really pushing product out and be able to meet what the FDA requires and fulfill those benchmarks that they want to have PMTA approved product for sale in the United States.
2FIRSTS: Do you know the disposable ban in the UK recently?
DemandVape: I vaguely I'm not we don't we don't sell a lot in the UK they have their own nicotine cap. I don't think they have a single product that we can actually push out there and in a compliance state.
So we don't really have a lot of the European market. So it's not something that I keep up on as much as I do But I know that it's an uphill battle for the government. They're going to be fighting the black market now which is, which is thriving anyway. So it's definitely an uphill battle for them to really enforce it.
2FIRSTS: Due to the ban in the UK, there might be a lot of brands going to the United States, like SKE and ELUX. Have you thought about collaborating with these major brands?
DemandVape: We haven't had any discussions with them yet, but we're definitely open to working together to tap those markets. Absolutely.
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