E-liquid or e-juice is the mixture used in electronic cigarettes. With the e-cigarette market exploding in recent years there are various business opportunities in this industry and making and selling your own e-liquid is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get started in this industry.
E-liquid is made up of Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), flavouring and nicotine. This is mixed together in various configurations to create the e-juice, bottled and resold.
A quick primer
PG – This is basically the “carrier” liquid, it makes your flavours mix
VG – Produces the vapour
Nicotine – (I’m sure you know what this is), usually measured milligram per milliliter
Steps (may differ)
The PG and VG is mixed to a suitable ratio (70/30, 80/20 etc.),
Nicotine is added (not all juices contain nicotine).
Then flavours is added
At its most rudimentary level you can buy the various ingredients in bulk, measure the various quantities (you get calculators for these both in website and app form) with a syringe, mix it and bottle it. But it goes much further than that. The market is highly competitive with quality juices produced in sterile clean room environments so your “bathtub blend” may be dead on arrival if not done properly.
Your product design is very important, both in what people don’t see (manufacturing process) and what they see (branding).
Let’s start with the manufacturing process; the juice has to be manufactured in sterile, conditions, basically lab conditions: wear gloves, hairnets and whatever else to prevent contaminant transfer.
Then I want to talk about the flavor, are you just going to resell DIY concentrates you put together, are you going to work off recipes you found online or are you going to develop a signature blend?
You also need to decide on your flavour profiles and whether you will do various or specialise in one. A flavour profile is a category like dessert or fruit are you going with tried and tested or try new ones like mixing two existing profiles.
Make sure you are using a manufacturing process that is 100% consistent so that each bottle tasted exactly the same.
Testing your product is also part of this, so give samples of your juice to experienced vapers to let them try, even better have a blind test and ask people to rate the various juices you give them (let them try some of your competitors)
Branding (very, very important)
If you have spent even a few minutes looking at E-juices you might have noticed the mysterious names and packaging. E-juices named after US states with flavours have something in common that state, E-juices made in Amsterdam named after an escort and I quote
Chloe, a university graduate who is a perfect mix of kinkiness and elegance, wrapped in a beautiful package with skills to match! Chloe possesses an enthusiastic love of life, a passion for adventure and a taste for luxury, balanced by a budding sense of maturity. Confidence is her strong suit.
“Chloe” is a spanspek, blueberry and honey flavoured e-juice. Yes a e-juice named after a hooker.
So, especially if you going premium, you need innovative branding, let’s say you are making a “proudly South African” e-juice then you can call it “Corruption” (cigar and whisky flavoured?) or something like that.
This is what will make or break your business, your design (liquid, bottle, labeling and packaging is all important). You need to find a niche in the market. Popular local strategies are:
Premium – spend weeks, even months developing a premium liquid and get it just right, manufacture it well, once launched it is so great that word of mouth takes over. Examples: Paulies.
House brand – develop cheaper single flavours. There are two ways to sell this: sell it on your shop and to other vendors. Example: VAP3/Vape Africa.
That is the common local strategies, but there are others that are not common locally and this is where there might be some opportunity.
One option is to manufacture custom branded liquids for various shops. So you will put the shops logo on the label and packaging.
Sell smaller “tester size” bottles
I don’t know why this strategy is not utilised in retail channels in South Africa especially considering that it is a relatively poor country with a lot of people interested in vaping but put off by the price of juices. On retail shelves, the smallest size of premium juices you will often see is 30ml to 100ml. Overseas you get smaller bottles, 15ml, even 10ml. But this is not common locally, this can be for various reasons, lack of cheap bottles to make it viable, packaging cost etc. However instead of selling one 30ml bottle for R100 sell, three different flavours in a pack for R100 this is better value for money. This will introduce people to your brand and next time they will buy a bigger bottle if they enjoy it. Especially at people just starting to vape, once they have a flavour they like they will buy bigger bottles as the small bottles will go too quick.
Taking the product to market will not be easy , a website is compulsory to sell direct; you will need to get into shops to grow, even if you just start selling on consignment close to you. Make your liquid available to vape lounges where people can try before they buy.
Making and selling e-juices is a fast growing industry and also very competitive, but it’s something that can be started sideline on a small budget, selling to friends and colleagues and branching out from there.
Starting Your Own E-Juice Empire
Image credits: Oscarsussa218, californiavapor