EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – INCIG – the UK’s favourite brand of e-cigarettes

For many years now traditional cigarettes have been strictly regulated in the UK, with hefty taxes, gruesome “quit or die” health warnings on packets, an advertising ban and a clampdown on merchandising and displaying them at the point of sale. Not to mention strict smoking bans in many locations, and growing social disapproval for smokers as a whole. But thanks to e-cigarettes and e-liquids from leading supplier INCIG, individuals ‘vape-ing’ – as opposed to smoking – these fast selling products can still enjoy the same habitual sensation as a traditional cigarette without the serious health implications and the rest.

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Established in 2012, Innovation Cigarettes Ltd, trading under the popular brand of INCIG electronic cigarettes, is one of the leading specialists in e-cigarettes and e-liquids and is recognised by customers throughout the UK as one of the best suppliers in the industry. Tristan Okulus, Founder and Managing Director of INCIG, marketers of INCIG Shisha Pipe e-cigarettes and e-liquids, spoke to Wholesale Manager.

Wholesale Manager – First of all, Tristan, what does it feel like to ‘vape’ an INCIG e-cigarette?

When you inhale, you feel a rapid sensation in the back of your throat, which is called ‘throat catch,’ or ‘impact.’ That’s the nicotine going into the lung. That’s the desirable sensation.

WM – E-cigarettes seem to have arrived here out of nowhere!

That’s true. The electronic cigarette was introduced to the U.S. market in 2007 and has seen tremendous growth there and showing little sign of slowing. E cigs have now reached the shores of the UK, and the market’s growth here is now mirroring that of its trans-Atlantic big brother.

WM – What’s been driving the growth?

Public awareness of e-cigarettes has grown substantially in recent years, with online media playing an integral role in the growing popularity of the product. Between 2009 and 2011 searches via Google using the terms ‘electronic cigarette’ increased by fiftyfold. In addition to the influence of online media, there is also evidence to suggest that tighter tobacco control measures are positively driving e-cigarette sales.

Online media has been the main focus of smokers’ introduction to e-cigs, but the prices of these products have been driven up by big budget marketing campaigns, which the end user has had to bear.

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WM – How big are e-cigarettes in Britain now?

The electronic cigarette industry here is positively booming. The past two years in particular have seen the number of providers rocket as new manufacturers seek to take advantage of e-cigarettes’ popularity. Their e-cig devices are the way forward for many cigarette smokers, who are looking for a cheaper way to smoke or are weighing up the alternative.

WM – Can you quote figures?

The Electronic Cigarette Consumer Association claims the industry was worth between £5m-£10m in 2011, with several firms declaring annual earnings of more than £1m in the UK alone. ECCA estimates the current UK growth is probably somewhere around 50% per year, with signs of continual growth for the next 11 years gradually slowing by 2025! In addition, 1.3 million were expected to be using e-cigarettes by the end of 2013, almost entirely made of current and ex-smokers, with perhaps as many as 400,000 people having replaced smoking with e-cigarette use. It’s still pretty small given there’s around 10-12m smokers in the UK, but in short, E-cigarettes are going to get massive; they are nowhere near saturation point.

WM – Which are the leading brands, and where does INCIG fit in?

There are a few recognised brands, but a number of newcomers are chasing the more established players, and INCIG is one such firm. We took the decision to become a wholesale importer and supplier of e-cigarettes and e-liquids, and we have identified the best e-cig in terms of performance, ease of use and price point. We market our product as cheaper and healthier alternatives to cigarettes and for use in places where smoking is not permitted, since they do not produce smoke.

WM – Are the big tobacco companies chasing a piece of the e-cig action? By now you would expect them to.

Many of the big tobacco firms are not coming into the e-cigarette market because they’re too busy trying to protect their product. This has left the door open for new brands like us, with a quality proposition, to get a foothold in a new emerging market. We’re seeing a fight for brand supremacy at the moment and big investments in marketing support, not seen before in this category. We expect that there will be a degree of brand and product consolidation in the coming years as the category starts to mature.

Raspberry-PackagingWM – E-cigarettes: what’s the benefit for wholesalers and cash ‘n’ carries?

These products are highly profitable. E-cigarettes’ astonishing popularity is evident, as an 800 per cent increase was recorded in 2013 in smokers using e-cigarettes to kick their habit. This has, to say the least, agitated the tobacco industry, whose sales fell eight per cent last year, and ultimately wholesalers, if not already stocking e-cigs, may have suffered as a result.

WM – How do e-cigarettes work?

They don’t burn at all. Instead, they use a small lithium-ion battery that atomises a liquid solution of nicotine. What you inhale looks like smoke, but it’s actually a vapour similar to stage fog. This solution offers the nicotine-addicted individual an alternative to smoking tobacco. Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine with a variety of flavours. They turn a mixture of products, including nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.

WM – Do they look like normal cigarettes?

Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks. Most e-cigs are similar enough in appearance to be mistaken for regular cigarettes, but one look inside and you’ll see the main difference: the nicotine vapour offers many advantages over traditional cigarette smoke, and unlike nicotine patches and gum, electronic cigarettes are designed to retain all the habitual habits of smoking, without the deadly consequences attached to tobacco smoking.

WM – How do you sum up your offering?

Our e-cigarettes aren’t marketed as a way to quit smoking, but as a smoking alternative. It’s safe smoking – like smoking with a condom on! It is a known fact that the harm from smoking is caused almost exclusively by the toxins present in tobacco which are released when lit. By contrast, pure nicotine products, although addictive, are considerably less harmful. INCIG Electronic cigarettes consequently represent a safer alternative to cigarettes for smokers who are unable or unwilling to stop using nicotine.

WM – What products are in your range? Can you tell us about them?

Our typical Shisha pipe consists of two main components: a battery and a Clearatomizer, which is an atomiser and a chamber combined which holds the e liquid solution. The benefit of our Shisha e-cig system over the traditional e-cig which looks more like a traditional cigarette is that the consumer can benefit from refilling the chamber themselves, with the purchase of e liquids from their local store. The end user gains better economies of scale over the older style e-cigs which require replaceable cartridges to be purchased, which contain lower volumes of liquid nicotine, sometimes have a common fault of being empty on purchase, have a higher retail price and tend to have very poor battery performance.

By contrast our products are manufactured to the highest quality, have great battery performance, which allows the consumer to have the best vapour experience and by refilling their own tank, have the knowledge that they are getting real value for money! In terms of quality and performance our CE4 entry level starter kit is the perfect choice for most users, both new and experienced. Our products use liquid bases, so this saves a lot of money compared to the cartomisers, or cig-a-like, systems. The throat hit is stronger, battery life longer and the choice of fluids wider. All our hardware is properly certified, and we have many checks in place.

WM – What different e-liquid flavours do you offer?

To ensure we deliver the best experience and contribute to the end user’s enjoyment, we have worked closely with our existing customer base to develop eight exclusive flavours, Classic Tobacco, Menthol, Cherry, Vanilla, Apple, Passion Fruit, Blueberry and Strawberry, making sure we satisfy everyone’s palette. To ensure we get the very best tastes and flavour our ingredients have been sourced from all over the globe to ensure the INCIG ‘vape’ is the best in the U.K.

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WM – How do you market your e-cigarettes?

INCIG has established a great internet retail presence, but we have also made the decision to concentrate on developing long lasting relationships within the trade market and offering cash ‘n’ carries and wholesalers the opportunity of benefiting from low trade prices. Our doing this means wholesalers can also take advantage of other large e-cig internet retailers’ marketing campaigns to gain awareness, capitalise on current e-cig users looking for alternative, local, cheaper outlets to source quality compatible accessories and liquids, ultimately benefiting from more competitive prices on the high street.

WM – What consumer marketing do you do?

We’re active in social media and at the point of sale. Potential new INCIG customers are already within retail outlets, in the form of tobacco smokers, and it’s a matter of reaching out to them. INCIG offers great point of sale material for retailers, including a Counter Top Display unit, which raises awareness and contributes to bringing the attention to the potential customer, and converting prospects into sales.

WM – What are the regulations about e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are currently not under any regulation, as they have to date not been seen as a medical solution to stopping smoking, and therefore have not been required to be fully studied by any regulatory body. Everyone knows smoking is the largest, preventable cause of premature mortality in the UK. While the ideal remains that people should stop using tobacco completely, the consensus currently supports a properly regulated harm reduction approach.

WM – Are you planning to bring out any new products in 2014?

Yes, we are. This year will see the INCIG product range expand and the company attempt to take on even tighter grip on the rapidly evolving sector. INCIG is well positioned to increase its sales with innovative new products supported by continuous investment. There is no doubt that e-cigs are here to stay, so it is your choice as a wholesaler if you wish to cash in on this fast moving market place by stocking INCIG – the UK’s favourite brand of e-cigarettes.

WM – Finally, where do you see e-cigarettes, and INCIG in particular, going from here?

As INCIG electronic cigarettes contain no tar and none of the other thousands of toxic chemicals, the public health gain is going to be very, very large – the biggest we’re likely to see this century. In the meantime E-cigarettes as a whole will be at the centre of one of the hottest health debates this year. Are they a medical or a lifestyle product? All publicity is good publicity, and this increased awareness will help push sales through your business.

By more and more retailers stocking INCIG e-cigs, tens of thousands of smokers’ lives could be saved in the coming years. Stocking INCIG e-cigs could also have a knock on effect on wholesalers’ and cash ‘n’ carries’ businesses commercially: sales generated not only from e-cig sales, but customers making other spontaneous purchases would see increases in turnover and profit for the independent retailers they serve. And with the offering of a wide selection of flavours and accessories, retail outlets will develop and retain repeat custom.

Tel: 0844 8706 753

Email: sales@incig.co.uk

www.incig.co.uk