Exclusive with Bi-coastal Distributors: Flavor Ban, Disposable and the Future
David, Las Vegas. Edited by Ellesmere Zhu - On the TPE show running from Feb. 22 to 24, 2FIRSTS correspondent interviewed Empire Imports from California and Demand Vape from New York. Both are the most influential vape distributor in their regions.
California passed the ballot to sustain the flavor ban last November. According to Noel, market director of Empire Imports, the most popular flavors are all fruity ones, including watermelon, blue raspberry lemon, strawberry, and so on.
Now that the flavor ban has been taken into effect, the first to be affected is the retail sector. Despite the sales steadiness of most stores, some 5-10% of stores closed. Survivors then had to find other alternatives, namely selling online or putting forward “clean flavor” juice and disposables.
The sales in California are steady, though. When the ban got on track, Noel saw a slight drop in sales, but now Empire’s sales are picking back up by some 2% this month.
The prices are another variant, as disposables upgrade with puffs quickly. For the retail sector, the price varies from $15-25 in 2022, depending on different puffs. And now it is $12-20 for the same puff counts – since new products begin to hit 7000 puffs, “you can’t sell 5000 puffs at the same price as 7000, that’s completely destroying 5000 puffs”, said Noel.
Empire Imports is currently suffering from a sales slowdown. According to Noel, the company has some 12,000 SKUs of disposables and has to sell them almost at cost price to make room for future procurement of new products. So at present Empire has no buying demand for disposables.
ELFBAR’s phenomenal emergence since last year also has deterred other companies from producing disposables, said Noel.
“When the disposables first came out, all companies wanted to do disposables, so the market got flooded. That made a lot of them lose money because they did not become popular.” That said, Empire sees a lot of companies slowing down.
Speaking of customer loyalty, Noel added that American juice flavors differ from that of other regions and countries in terms of sweetness and fruit ingredients. “US juice brands definitely have more understanding of the US vapers”, said Noel.
2023 will be a difficult time for new manufacturers, as PMTA focuses more on new products. ELFBAR’s overfilling scandal does not affect its domineering position in the US.
“ELFBAR so far from what we are seeing is constantly following the regulation. The majority of the companies in the US are actually compliant, at least 95% (of all the companies)”.
Dave is the purchasing manager of Demand Vape, a distribution center in Buffalo, New York. According to Dave, the best-selling product last year is ELFBAR PC 5000, and the largest state-level market from Demand’s perspective is Ohio. But the flavor bans will affect disposable sales in the future.
But in the long run, said Dave, “disposables will keep growing and competing as a strong rival against the tobacco big four since you cannot find another product that is so easy to use, especially for Americans who tend to prefer simplicity”.
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