We are hearing a lot of noise about e-cigarettes and e-liquids these days, and much more of a presence in retail, in particular convenience outlets and forecourt shops. With so many different products on the market, the only guarantee of quality for delivered wholesalers and cash ‘n’ carries to ensure they offer their retail customers the best possible range, is to buy from a reliable and reputable supplier. With the recent boom in electronic cigarettes, Liberty Flights are now giving cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers the chance to profit from this fast growing market by selling a selection of their proven, high quality products.
Established in 2009 Liberty Flights is one of the leading specialists in e-cigarettes and e liquid and recognised by customers throughout the world as one of the best suppliers in the industry. Offering a solution which is one of the most adaptable and customisable ways of enjoying a safer, healthier and more cost effective alternative to tobacco and cigarettes, Liberty Flights have spent time and research presenting a reliable way of delivering an authentic nicotine experience but without the many dangers and disputed social aspects of conventional cigarette smoke. 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 alternatives.
Matthew Moden, Director of Liberty Flights UK, spoke to Wholesale Manager.
Wholesale Manager – First of all, Matthew, what does your role as Director of Liberty Flights UK involve from day to day? Do you personally deal with cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers? As a company, how are you set up to service them?
Liberty Flights was established in 2009, principally through e commerce. Since then the group has grown to employ over 70 staff, encompassing production, retail outlets, sales and of course customer support. It has been an incredible journey for all involved. My role has changed in so many ways. There was a time when I could liaise directly with customers and I loved being involved at that level. It is extraordinary to hear people talk about the way that the products we sell have changed their lives. Now we are of such a size that most of my time is spent looking at opening up new global markets, in top level discussions with partners and liaising with my key staff members to ensure we maintain our high level of customer care, service and product manufacture and development.
WM – Where’s your world HQ? Who owns Liberty Flights – is it an independent company?
Liberty Flights is owned directly by me and my business partner Abe Spain. We have a presence throughout the world, with representatives in Europe and a fulfilment centre in the USA. Our HQ is in Lancashire, and this is where our logistics and operations take place. We also have a string of retail stores that we are looking to expand throughout the UK and then onto America and other global markets.
WM – Where do you make the products you sell here?
The e-liquid – the fluid that is used in electronic cigarettes – we make here in the UK. This is made from UK-sourced pharmaceutical ingredients. Our mixing and development team carry this out in a clean room environment. We are focusing more and more on this aspect of our business, and it is crucial that we have full efficacy due to the nature of the products sold. A lot of people are looking to gain entry into the market by supplying cheaper, lower quality, mislabelled goods and this is dangerous to the wider public. Liberty Flights, on the other hand, has a strict protocol for production, including batching and fluid analysis, both internal and external.
WM – There are lots of different e-cigarette and related products on the market. Why choose Liberty Flights?
There are indeed a lot of products, and it can be overwhelming when one first looks at what is available. In terms of performance, quality and cost effectiveness, the eGo (CE4) starter kit is the perfect choice for most users, new and experienced. Our products use liquid bases, and so this saves a lot of money compared to the cartomizer, or cig-a-like, systems. The throat hit is stronger, battery life longer and the choice of fluids is wider. All our hardware is properly certified and we have many checks in place for the production of our own fluid. Crucially we are fully insured too, which a lot of the smaller vendors are not.
WM – How big in value terms is the e-cigarette market in the UK? How fast is it growing?
The worldwide market is currently worth around £1.3 billion, which isn’t bad considering it was in relative obscurity in 2008, and the UK is said to sit within the top five countries in this market. UK projections suggest that it will be worth £250m by the end of 2014. My opinion is that this is a conservative estimate. There are around 1 million plus users of electronic cigarettes, out of 10 million smokers, in the UK but the exponential growth I believe is unprecedented in the FMCG market.
WM – What are the UK regulations about sale and display of e-cigarettes?
Currently electronic cigarettes are proving to be a bit of a curve ball for the regulatory authorities and the government. Liberty Flights have worked very closely with Trading Standards and we comply with all the requirements within the commercial market place. We do not sell to minors, and advise that people do not take up a nicotine habit unless they already have one and are looking for alternatives to burning tobacco.
WM – For the uninitiated, what are e-cigarettes?
e-cigarettes are an exciting and revolutionary alternative to tobacco-based cigarettes that has liberated many smokers from the confines inflicted by the UK smoking ban of 2007, presenting a socially acceptable way to enjoy a hit of nicotine where all that is exhaled is water vapour that dissipates quickly into nothing. Generating no lasting unpleasant odours, our electronic cigarettes offer you the chance to try different strengths and flavours of liquid without causing a disturbance to others. No tar or nicotine is expelled on an exhale. Accepted widely in society and available in an array of strengths and flavours ranging from traditional tobacco and menthol flavours to a mixture of floral and fruit inspired liquids, each offers a unique chance for a smoker to fine-tune their exact choice to best suit their requirements and preferences.
WM – How do e-cigarettes work?
An electronic cigarette involves an atomiser, an advanced unit which takes the specially formulated e cig liquid and turns it from a liquid state into a vapour that is inhaled, efficiently delivering nicotine to the body and providing the same instant relief that smokers receive when inhaling conventional tobacco smoke. The e -liquid authentically recreates the way smokers gain their satisfaction from tobacco. E cigs ensure that your satisfaction is guaranteed, presenting a cleaner, safer, completely sociable way to enjoy cigarettes without the presence of harmful toxins, chemicals and thick acrid tar that forms in the lungs of smokers and passive smokers. There are many types of products on the market – however the principle is consistent across the ranges.
WM – How old do consumers need to be to buy e-cigarettes? What are the consumer demographics for e-cigarette smokers?
Liberty Flights do not sell to people under the age of 18. We also advise against using our products whilst pregnant. Initially there was definitely a trend amongst the 35 and above age group. This is probably due to the fact that people by this stage in their life realised that smoking was not great both financially and in terms of their health. The Electronic Cigarette offers a real alternative for them, and lots of people state how it has changed their life and that they much prefer the act of vaping to smoking.
WM – Where are people currently allowed to use e-cigarettes in the UK?
People can vape – vaping is the term adopted by e-cigarette users – anywhere, where permitted. The UK smoking ban only affects the burning of tobacco products, where fire or a flame is required; the electronic cigarette needs neither, and creates no unpleasant odour either. However, some landlords and workplaces and other public areas are beginning to clamp down on their use. Whether this is down to misinformation about the passive effects, of which there are none, or to avoid confusion with other patrons, who think that they might be permitted to smoke normal cigarettes, it is difficult to say.
WM – The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently announced plans to license e-cigarettes by 2016 to improve their quality. How does the quality of your products measure up?
Our products are made to the highest possible quality standards. The e-liquid we provide in the UK is made from pharmaceutical ingredients, Propylene Glycol or Vegetable Glycerine and nicotine, to which is added various flavourings and differing levels of nicotine. We are very strict about all our processes and have tight controls over fluid and hardware. Most of our new investment is going towards us developing this aspect of the business. We have just commissioned the build of a new clean room and are looking to invest into new machinery to keep up with demand.
WM – We all know about the health risks from conventional cigarettes. What are the health risks with e-cigarettes?
As it currently stands, there is no concrete proof that electronic cigarettes are healthy or that e juice or liquid poses no threat, however there is evidence that supports claims that this choice is a far cleaner, healthier and safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.
WM – How does the cost of smoking e-cigarettes compare with conventional ones?
One important factor that has generated an interestingly popular response from field studies and tests is the cost effectiveness of refilling your e cigarette. After purchasing the initial product, a user will then only have to buy e-liquid refills, which retail at £4.85. Costing on average up to two thirds less than their tobacco counterparts, e-cigarettes liquid is, and can be far, better on your pocket, not to mention your health and clothes; it is safer for those around you and tailored to suit your personal tastes.
WM – Can you talk us through the different products in your range that you’re offering to cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers?
At one stage we have had over 4,000 SKU’s, which was fine for us to handle as we have good warehousing and stock control and a good ERP. However we trimmed this dramatically when we took the decision to become a wholesale supplier, and have identified the best e-cig in terms of performance, ease of use and price point. We have also dedicated a lot of time and resource to developing our own XO e -liquid range, which gives us full control.
WM – When did you launch your current range here? Which are your bestselling products in retail?
The best selling range is the CE4 starter kit that we have available now. These kits are fantastic for both novice and expert and are available from us today. We have a very attractive CTU and the refills and hardware spares are nicely packaged too, which means that re-stocking is easy and flexible.
WM – How does the nicotine level of your e-cigarettes compare with conventional cigarettes?
They provide sufficient nicotine to address a smoker’s craving.
WM – Which wholesale accounts are you currently listed in?
We are in negotiations with some of the big players at the moment, and we already have a deal in place with Bargain Booze for their chain of stores. We are confident that by the end of September there will be a lot more wholesale companies carrying our lines. In the meantime interested parties can contact us directly at our HQ. There is a good POR to be had.
WM – Who do wholesalers and cash ‘n’ carries need to call, to order stocks? How quickly can you deliver?
They can contact us directly at Liberty Flights UK and we have dedicated account managers who are there to help with new orders and give advice. Delivery times are very low. We have the infrastructure in place to deliver large volumes in a timely manner. One of our proudest acquisitions is a bottling machine that can deliver 2,000 bottles per hour. In fact we like it so much we might have to get another one soon!
WM – What consumer advertising and promotion are you doing to get the message across to consumers? How about online activity?
We get around 200,000 people visiting our site per month, and so we are quite popular online. We have an active Facebook account that offers discounts and information. We always try to advertise on radio stations in our target areas, and leaflet drops always work for us. And of course platforms like Wholesale Manager are a good resource for us.
WM – Any plans to launch any more new products in the UK?
We are constantly revising our product offerings and developing new flavours in house. We have a team of specialists who are also enthusiastic about vaping, and this means we can liaise with the manufacturers and work with them to create better products.
WM – Where do you see Liberty Flights going from here?
We already have a strong presence in the USA and Europe. We are moving into bigger markets in France, Spain, Italy and Germany. Our efforts are also focusing on new markets outside these areas. Essentially we are looking to expand in as many countries as we can.
Liberty Flights Ltd
UK Tel: 0845 257 9008