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It's been 3 weeks since the ECC Expo was a wrap and the vapor is still settling in Southern California.
The event was a milestone for the fast growing vape industry with eLiquid + Hardware manufacturers, Vape Distributors and key people from thousands of vape specialty retailers rubbing shoulders for 4 days along with tens of thousands of vape enthusiasts who came during the open consumer days on Saturday and Sunday. Total estimated attendance over the 4 day event was 100,000.
With ECC Expo taking place in the heart of Southern California's "Vape Valley", many of the exhibitors pulled out all the stops and went all out on booth designs and set ups. Having a West Coast major vape event also makes it easier for overseas buyers and distributors attending from Asia - which is also experiencing rapid growth as people in countries like Indonesia, China and Japan are quickly moving away from combustible tobacco to vaping.
With any event at this scale, you have to expect some snafu's that will ruffle a few feathers.
In addition to hosting ECC at a new venue with 5 separate halls, mother nature decided to turn up the heat with a major heat wave that pushed daytime temps above 100 degrees for all 4 days of the show. This definitely added to the frustrations as thousands had to wait in line for up to 2 hours to gain access. There's got to be a faster way to check people's credentials/ID/registration confirmation and allow them access and I'm sure that this is a high priority for future ECC/Vape events.
With the event spread out over 5 Halls many reported frustrations in finding brands/exhibitors or even knowing that there were 5 halls to check out. Many attending didn't download the ECC App and were without any kind of map or guide to help them navigate. A simple paper map (vs the app only) would have been a big plus.
For exhibitors, many companies were not notified of their confirmed booth location until the weekend before the event, and some companies found out that they were not even placed inside one of the halls, but rather outside in tents between the halls. There were several reasons given by ECC for all the chaos around booth placement including a last minute decision by the Fire Marshall to force ECC to leave more space with so many pre-sale tickets being sold. Regardless of the reasons for this, ECC is very aware that they must get the back end exhibitor management sorted to avoid this from happening at future events.
Despite the heat wave, long lines at the entrance and chaotic 5 Hall Set Up, ECC was a resounding success for the industry and many brands (including Cafe Racer ) reported record orders placed at the show, hundreds of sales inquiries and new connections made - all important to moving the industry forward.
Cosmic Fog was the Premier ECC Sponsor and broke out their new mega booth. They along with hype brands like Space Jam seem to be in an arms race to see who can spend the most money and create the biggest, loudest mega hype booths possible - all to showcase the same 5 or 10 flavors of eLiquid that they've been selling for some time. This trend along with the fact that many smaller (and usually more innovative) companies were either denied the ability to exhibit or ended up with much smaller booth footprints in far flung locations does not seem like it benefits Vape Shop Buyers looking for new products, consumers or the Industry as a whole.
Many companies used ECC 2015 as a platform to launch new products. One notable was Mr Good Vape - who decided to reformulate all 12 of their flavors after receiving lab test results that detected trace amounts of Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl. More on this here.
ECC was also Cafe Racer's platform to launch our 3rd flavor - Yogurt Bomb, joining #Lucky13 and #PeachGuzzi as Cafe Racer's signature flavor line-up. Yogurt Bomb was a huge success at the ECC and will start shipping on or around September 16, 2015.
Innovations in Hardware and Accessories continue to come at a rapid pace. Everything from the latest temp control vaping set ups to cool accessories like Wüd - wooden skins and wraps to turn an ordinary box mods / batteries into real nice wooden boxes. It was a vapers paradise with many vendors offering great show specials and discounts for attendees.
ECC holds the distinction of being the world's largest Vape event. It's a little surprising that the event received very little media coverage from the likes of Vice or other progressive media outlets, especially with the event taking place so close to Los Angeles. Perhaps this is a good thing but at some point someone is going to break the story open and hopefully they will do this with an open mind and an agenda-less, non-biased story.
Here are a few more photos from ECC. We look forward to working with the show's organizers on future events - and it looks like ECC will be rolling into New Orleans in November - and we look forward to that and other events that the ECC team unleash around the country.
Here's a closing shot of Dustin Kott from Kott Motorcycles dropping off one of his custom Cafe Racer creations at ECC which we showcased at our booth.
This year’s annual ECC Expo was held at the Fairplex in Pomona, California (30 miles outside of LA) on August 13-16, 2015. ECC 2015 is on course to be a high water mark for the booming Vape Culture (so far). With 5 Halls packed with hundreds of vendors selling the latest hardware, eLiquid flavor creations and a variety of vape accessories and an estimated paid attendance of over 100,000 people, this still relatively unknown sub-culture is looking like it's about to burst into the more mainstream consciousness.
The Cafe Racer Tasting Bar and Booth has been jam packed all week with buyers and shop owners and their management teams loving our unique complex artfully crafted eLliquid flavor creations + clean distinctive design, packaging and in-store merchandising. Cafe Racer's #Lucky13 and #PeachGuzzi flavors continue to get rave reviews and the launch of #YogurtBomb has been a massive hit with retailers and vape enthusiasts alike.
Here are a few shots from the first 3 days of the show - we'll do a full wrap up once the vapor clouds dissipate.
I had a chance to catch up with Adam Bowen, Founder, CTO at PAX Labs (formerly Ploom) and my former boss. I was VP Marketing at the inception of Pax (then called Ploom) from 2007 - 2010 and it was great to catch up with a an old friend and see that Pax's Juul, while not a #Vape, is one heck of a device and was well received at ECC by industry and consumers alike. Juul is Pax's concept to fix the broken cigalike side of the vapor market and it works amazingly well and has a great form factor.
It's estimated that over 100,000 people attended ECC - and that estimate was pretty close to spot on.
This guy dropped by our booth with possibly craziest Mod ever! Custom culture really has no bounds.
We invited our friends from Team Gravity, a professional League of Legends eSports Team based nearby Pomona, to check out ECC as our guests. eSports is another huge sub-culture that most mainstream media outlets have yet to really get their minds around.
Part 2 of the Recap coming soon. Stay vaped!
All eyes in the world of vape are on the upcoming ECC Expo which starts on Thursday August 13th. This year’s annual event will be held at Fairplex in Pomona on August 13-16, 2015. ECC 2015 is gearing up to be the ultimate B2B convention for the vapor products industry as well as the ultimate consumer expo in the vaping world. Last year drew over 40,000 and estimates for this year's attendance are upwards of 60,000. Southern California has become ground zero for vape shops, hardware manufacturers and premium e-liquid artists and ECC is sure to be an epic gathering for all who attend.
We've been busy in the flavor lab working on new creations and are stoked to announce that we have new spectacular blend ready to drop at ECC - Yogurt Bomb! Months of working with real world yogurt creations featuring seasonal fruit and berries and an assortment of accompanying delights including organic honey, creamy coconut milk, toasted seeds and nuts and dark chocolate shavings gave us something to shoot for in the ultimate yogurt based e-liquid.
Recreating the real world Yogurt Bomb with endless experimentation with flavor extracts sourced from around the world finally produced a blend that we are proud to release. #YogurtBomb will be joining #Lucky13 and #PeachGuzzi as Cafe Racer's signature flavor line-up.
Yogurt Bomb's flavor profile is a complex blend of greek yogurt infused with fresh strawberries and raspberries with a dash of orange for a perfect blend of sweet and tart topped off with bavarian cream, coconut milk, nuts and honey. This is by far our most complex flavor art undertaking and one that we hope you'll enjoy as much as we do!
We're bringing an kick ass cafe racer bike to our booth at ECC made my a local legend fabricator Dustin Kott founder of Kott Motorcycles. Here's a sneak peak of the bike:
It's t-minus 2 days until the doors of ECC open and we're looking forward to the experience and meeting thousands of vape enthusiasts who we can't wait to share our flavor creations with. If you're attending, look for us at Booth # 1334 in Hall 7. We should be easy to spot with this bad boy racer by Kott and our new LED tasting bar.
Alcoholic Architecture, a new bar in London's Borough Market by the design firm Bompas & Parr, claims to get you drunk without drinking. It's a bar defined by its signature cocktail: an aerosolized cloud of alcohol (vapor) that patrons start breathing as soon as they walk through the door.
A 1:3 ratio combination of spirits and mixers that has been aerosolized, the breathable brew is so potent that imbibers need to actually don special protective suits, to limit how much skin (and, more specifically, mucus membranes) are exposed to it.
This is surely crossing many boundaries considering all the fuss lawmakers make about vaping + ecigs with nicotine (especially when viewed against the backdrop of the harm smoking causes millions). One can only imagine if this concept actually took off - what kind of backlash there would be to this and all forms of aerosolized imbibing.
This isn't Bombas and Parr's first foray into vapor based art installations. Visitors watching London’s fireworks between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge got to experience a total sensory assault with the different colored fireworks matched to fruity flavors. So as red pyrotechnics exploded in the sky, the city was engulfed in a strawberry flavored cloud of vapor.
Yes another project by Bompas & Parr called the Fruit Weather is a fruit based weather system for your tongue. The installation billed as a collision of meteorology and pomology at the Garage Centre of Contemporary Culture in Moscow in 2013 exploded fruit to the scale of buildings spatialising flavor to become an immersive and inhabitable cloud.
Fruit Weather used powerful humidifiers to super saturated the air with fruity vapour. The high humidity level itself enhances taste perception as meteorology and pomology (the study of fruit) collide. On any given day visitors were able to step inside a strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, lime or pear flavored cloud.
Sounds a little like entering your first big vape show like ECC or World Vapor Expo. Perhaps the world of high art and vaping are on collision course to develop a whole range of aerosol sensory experiences. It certainly would appeal to a wider audience than Cloud Chasing events - which are cool but not really meant for a mainstream audience.
Electronic Cigarettes have been evolving at a rapid pace over the last 5 years and with a dizzying array of options hitting the market at an ever faster rate. The earliest "cig-alike" models were a great start and upgrades and changes were slow at first, but then something truly amazing happened when early ecig enthusiasts started hacking their off the shelf models to increase the performance and create more vapor, add more power and increased battery life.
Two images of the earliest first generation Ruyan E-Cigs
Electronic Cigaretts Generation 1.0
Modern Electronic Cigarettes were first developed sometime in 2003/2004 by a Chinese pharmacist and heavy smoker named Hon Lik. Hon Lik set out to develop electronic cigarettes after his father died of lung cancer. Seeing a way to transform tragedy into a positive, he created a method that enabled smokers to have nicotine through inhalation, without smoke, tobacco, and the many thousands of chemicals that are part of the production of cigarettes. He named his company Ruyan, meaning “like smoke. After a lot of research and trial and error, Hon Lik released his smoking alternative to the public in 2004. Hon Lik’s first electronic cigarette consisted of a battery, a plastic cartridge containing a nicotine solution suspended in propylene glycol, and a heating element composed of an ultrasonic atomizer.
Many companies soon copied the Ruyan's design but in 2006, two brothers named Umer and Tariq Sheikh based in the UK made a big breakthrough when they invented the cartomizer. A cartomizer is a mechanism that integrates the heating coil into the liquid chamber. They launched this new device in the UK in 2008 under their Gamucci brand and the design is now widely adopted by most "cigalike" brands.
Most early generation electronic cigarettes looked and felt like a traditional tobacco cigarette—what the industry now refers to as “cig-alikes.” Small and light, these try to mimic many of the design features of real cigarettes, down to the filter pattern and the ash-like LED tip that lights up when the device is activated.
Cig-alikes dominated the market for number of years but as time wore on, a new subculture began to emerge who were hell bent on improving the performance of cigalikes. Made up of former smokers who used e-cigs to quit, these e-cig evangelists shared their quitting stories, encouraged one another to stay off "analogs" and swapped advice and DIY ways to improve the performance of stock models via the emerging omnipresent internet on interactive websites like Electronic Cigarette Forum or ECF. It was the perfect confluence of two relatively new technologies which enabled hundreds of thousands of e-cig users from around the world to share insights on ways to "Mod" the stock ecigs and eventually to building custom e-cigs from the ground up.
OPEN SYSTEM VAPORIZERS (Tanks): Generation 2.0
Photo Credit: http://vaping360.com/
Ecigs vs Vaporizers
Fueled by hobbyist innovations shared online via forums like ECF and others, sometime around 2011 the first generation of Open Tank Systems started to hit the market. These "Open System’ vaporizers consist of interchangeable batteries with open tanks or clearomisers. What makes these products ‘open system’ is the fact that users have a lot more flexibility in what they can do with them. They can use a vast range of different e-liquids, all sorts of different battery types, including ‘variable voltage’; they can take advantage of multiple types of tanks or clearomisers that suit a variety of performance and aesthetic needs.
2014 was a turning point for the E-Cig/Vaporizer market. Market Watch reported that open system vaporizers have officially surpassed the earlier generation “cigalike” electronic cigarettes to top the market. It wasn’t even a close call with open system vapes selling $500 million more per year. This is an eye opening look at how the ecig world is changing and what vapers prefer when it comes to their gear.
MODS and the New Generation of Sub Ohm Tanks - Generation 3.0
With hobbyists insatiable pursuit of better performance, and the growing economic incentive to spur corporate R&D, innovations kept coming from all directions.
A modded flashlight was one of the first common e-cig battery “mods,” and is the the grandfather of a lot of the current e cig mech mods you’ll see on the market today. Flashlights were easy to work with since they’re just comprised of a hollow tube for batteries, a switch, and threading where you’re supposed to screw in your light bulb. With a greater power source came many other innovations - so many in fact that I could fill up pages and pages of various innovations with technical nerd speak about wattage, variable wattage, rebuildable atomizers, ohms, etc. One thing for sure, this new generation of "MODS" was not your father's e-cig. They were in some ways highly evolved yet in others very simple designs. The one thing that they all did was increase the amount of vapor production as well as the releasing the full flavors of the also evolving e-liquids available on the market.
With mods it took a lot of know how to build, operate and maintain these devices. Despite these drawbacks, their popularity mushroomed and soon you started seeing people using them blowing big clouds of vapor in their cars, walking down the street and outside of bars.
Eventually the engineers at some of the big vaporizer hardware companies caught on and got to work to replicate the experience of using a Mod without the hassle and engineering know how. In 2014, Aspire released it's newest tank called the Atlantis. The Atlantis was the first Sub-Ohm tank to hit the market and the vaporizer market has really evolved rapidly since it's introduction.
To simplify, sub Ohm vaping uses much more power to spread a larger amount of heat over a much larger area, which causes more e-liquid to be vaporized in one moment. If you really want to geek out and learn more about the science of this, check out Ohm's law video - The Arduino Guide
As a result, Sub Ohm vaping has created this new era in vaping where it doesn’t take a lot of experience to reach a high performance with much more vapor production and much better flavor delivery from e-liquids.
The Sub Ohm Revolution has only just begun and will be the topic of my next blog post. Stay Tuned!
Eddie Van Halen seen here vaping in Billboard Mag's video interview with him for the recent cover story on the rocker titled: Eddie Van Halen on Surviving Addiction, Why He's Still Making Music and What he Really Thinks of David Lee Roth (and Other Past Van Halen Bandmates
Here's the video http://bcove.me/99y4sdeq
Interesting read and good to see that Eddie is off of cigarettes while still rocking and touring at the ripe young age of 60.
While the FDA has yet to make an official statement on it's ruling, we did get some good news today as Congress urged the FDA to not require vapor products already on the market to go through a lengthy and potentially multimillion dollar Premarket Tobacco Review application process. This bill would not impact the FDA’s ability to regulate these products, including setting rigorous product and manufacturing standards.
"Without action by Congress, the FDA's proposed regulations threaten to ban 99 percent-plus of vapor products currently available on the market,” AVA President Gregory Conley said in a news release. “This would be a disaster not only for thousands of small businesses, but also public health.”
It is unconscionable to effectively ban the sale of tens of thousands of vapor products while leaving combustible cigarettes freely available,” Conley said. Under the FDA’s proposal, the groups said all e-cigarettes and cigars on the market now would remain available so long as they file an application with the FDA within two years.
The FDA originally floated the idea of regulating e-cigarettes back in 2011, but four years later, public health advocates along with the entire ecig/vape community is still waiting.
The regulations were formally proposed last year to much criticism from both public health and industry groups. The final rule is expected by the end of this June.
Of particular concern with the FDA runling is the growth of Open System Vaping Products ( vs closed systems like cigalikes) and how Big Tobacco might try and pressure the FDA put a stop to the thousands of small businesses (vape shops, e-liquid manufacturers. mod makers, etc) that have sprung up to meet the rapidly growing demand for the 2nd and 3rd generation open system vaping products that are outside of the control and influence of Big Tobacco.
According to Wells Fargo Securities, open system vaporizers now contribute more than $1.5 billion to the overall electronic vaporizer market in the U.S., with electronic cigarettes accounting for $1 billion. Domestically, the combined electronic vaporizer market is now estimated at $2.5 billion -- and growing ( as of September 2014)
So while the industry and entire vape community still have to wait for the FDA ruling scheduled for the end of June, many are breathing (and exhaling a nice cloud) a sigh of relief with the news that Congress seems to be hearing what many millions have been calling for and that the FDA will hopefully act responsively and not bend to the whim of Big Tobacco or others looking to shut down an industry that is saving lives with each person that switches from combustable tobacco to using vapor products.
We've been working for over a year on the flavor profiles, packaging, website and branding and it was finally time to introduce Cafe Racer's Craft E-Liquids to the world. There are dozens of Vape meets and Vape Shows around the country but three really stand out: ECC, Vape Summit and World Vapor Expo. The timing of the World Vapor Expo made it a perfect launch vehicle for us to introduce our signature artfully crafted blends to the vaping world.
In my previous post on this blog, I shared our booth-buildout for the show. We felt that building our own custom booth would be a great way to extend the spirit of the Cafe Racer brand as well as provide a distinctive installation that would be both functional and stand out among hundreds of companies all vying for attention at the show. The idea was to showcase a kick ass Cafe Racer bike as well as provide a functional good looking sampling station for people to try our two signature flavors Lucky 13 and Peach Guzzi.
I walked this show last year to get a read on the state of the industry. I remember the energy at the Miami Convention Center being very high with a kind of vape electricity in the air - along with a thick vapor haze that happens when you get 15,000 people all vaping utilizing the latest and greatest Mods and Tanks. Being an exhibitor at this year's event was a vision that helped push the project forward over the last year as we painstakingly focused on creating distinctive, complex flavors that would stand out in a growing landscape of e-liquids that everyone claims are "premium" but many fall under the category of underwhelming and me too flavors created without much imagination or artistry.
CAFE RACER's BOOTH
We scored the bike from a local motorcycle crew called Cafe Moto Club. I reached out to them to see if they could help us find a local custom builder who might allow us to showcase his bike in our booth. The Cafe Moto Club guys were super cool and very supportive. They put me in touch with one of their members, James, who they said had just the bike I was looking for and one of the top custom Cafe Racer's in the South.
The Cafe Racer Tasting Bar turned out awesome! Lots of attendees dropped by to admire the piece of art that James had created from a 1974 Honda and to sample the e-liquid blends that quickly became the talk of the show. Some visitors also had fun playing with the uplighting at the bar creating vape cloud art and pushing out photos to instagram and twitter.
DAY 1: FRIDAY MAY 29th
Friday was B2B only - so you had to be a qualified Vape Shop owner or shop employee to attend. This was really our main target audience with this show as our goal was to connect with shop owners looking for new ultra premium brands of e-liquid to add to their shop's growing variety of top shelf flavors.
We sampled hundreds of vape shop owners and their attending staff along with many other industry folks who stopped by our booth to check out our flavors. I was a little nervous at the onset, this being the first real test to validate that our flavors were as good as we felt they were. We had received great reviews from a limited number of beta testers here in SoCal during the flavor development period, but offering our artfully crafted blends to the wide world of vapor enthusiasts and other e-juice makers from all over the country was another story completely!
The butterflies quickly dissipated as person after person raved about one or both of our flavors and begged us for samples or asked to buy a bottle. We probably had 400 people sample the flavors the first day and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. More than a few people said that Lucky13 was the best tobacco blend they had ever tried and PeachGuzzi received high marks as a refreshing complex fruity blend unlike anything available on the market.
Day 2: SATURDAY - VAPE-AGEDDON!
Saturday was B2B from 10am until Noon and then the doors opened up to the general public - as a huge crowd of vape enthusiasts from all over the East Coast descended on Hall A to check the latest and greatest in vaping world.
By 2:00 PM Hall A was packed with people all vaping their high powered Vape Mods and Sub-Ohm tanks - creating a cloud of vapor beyond anything that I've seen before. What is also amazing - it smelled pretty awesome in the Miami convention center with thousands of flavors all intermingling to create a mélange of flavor unlike anything I've ever experienced. Had this been a Smoking event, the air quality would have been akin to Beijing during the evening rush hour (or worse!) but because vapor is merely water molecules mixed with flavoring, the sweet scented vapor clouds didn't negatively effect the air quality at all.
DAY 3: SUNDAY
I thought the closing day would be pretty slow, especially since this event was in Miami, a city known for it's all night partying. To my surprise, the action at the convention center was just a little less than Saturday's throngs with lots of people filling Hall A by 11:00 am or so. We continued to get a steady stream of people at the Cafe Racer booth throughout the day with many returning for a 2nd taste or request samples for their Vape Shop - something most shops do to test with their staff and best customers before bringing in a new line of e-liquid.
We wrote a few orders to vapor shops and took home hundreds of business cards from shops asking us to send samples to test. As the day wore on, the crowds held steady, with many booths still busy right up until the 4pm closing time. This was one of the first trade shows where I was actually disappointed to see the show close.
I closed out the trip with a swim in the warm aqua colored water of Miami Beach. Back in Cali, I surf almost every day so being in the water here in Miami was a perfect way to end this trip and clear my head before heading back to San Diego where the real work of getting Cafe Racer's artfully crafted e-liquids pushed out to stores nation wide was about to commence. Giddy Ops!
As a final note about the show, I'd like to mention that the World Vapor Expo organizers were an absolute pleasure to work with. Mark Evans Jr, President of the World Vapor Expo, stopped by the booth several times to see how things were going and made sure that we were happy with everything at the show. He was super accessible from the first email that I sent to them back in March regarding getting a booth all the way to closing day of the show. Big thanks to Mark and his World Vapor Expo Team!
After years of experimentation and over 6 months of work in the lab with a top flavorist, we are super stoked to be launching our first two flavors - Peach Guzzi and Lucky 13 at the World Vapor Expo in Miami on May 29th.
It's been a whirlwind Winter getting everything ready for launch. After relocating to sunny Encinitas, CA in December 2014 to start the business, we set out with one goal - make great flavors that we love. In addition to creating awesome flavors, we wanted to create a CRAFT e-liquid company that was true to the name - sourcing the best flavors from around the world, being 100% transparent about ingredients, finding a production lab that was ISO certified and would meet our very high standards and creating a brand that would connect with discerning consumers who would appreciate our passion and dedication to delivering awesome and unique flavors they could trust.
True to this dedication to DIY and Custom Culture, we didn't just buy a booth for the upcoming shows, we built it ourselves. I enlisted an old friend and legendary surfboard designer named Peter Scrhoff to help out. Here is Peter's original design sketch (note - Peter is very low tech) along with a few shots of he and I during the build (Peter's the one with the spray paint)
The idea of integrating an awesome custom Cafe Racer into the booth is central to the design. Peter took the other main design element of creating a fun tasting station for people to try our blends and combined the two. Since we only have a small 10 x 10 Booth (it's our first show after all) Peter decided to build the tasting station around the bike.
As for the cafe racer bike, I lucked out and found a Cafe Racer club in South Florida who had a member who was willing to rent me his racer for a few days. Here's a shot of the bike - which is I only wish I could take for a ride in addition to showcasing it at our booth.
It's t-minus 8 days and 17 hours until the doors open at the World Vapor Expo and there are still a ton of things to sort out before then. Can't wait to share our flavors with the world and see how the vape industry and consumers respond. Look for us at Booth # 200 at the World Vapor Expo in Miami and at other Vape events around the country throughout 2015.