The summer of 2019 pales in comparison to the turmoil of pretty much every month of 2020 thus far, but was still notable for at least one high-profile public health crisis. August 2019 saw a noted rise in vaping-related illnesses. The vaping crisis prompted the Food and Drug Administration to initiate comprehensive laboratory testing and ongoing investigations of cases in order to regulate the use of vaping products.
Vape sales for key states hit a high of $160 million in August 2019 according to the new State of Legal Cannabis report by Arcview and BDSA. By September, those sales dropped to $126 million. Once it was determined that illegal manufacturers were the root of the problem, branded vape sales started to slowly recover. Fourth-quarter 2019 sales still showed signs of decline, but in December sales picked up by 11%.
States and the vaping industry are still waiting on concrete federal guidelines, and in the meantime, many manufacturers of vaping hardware and associated products are downsizing or disbanding due to the one-two punch of the vape crisis and Covid-19.
Blinc Remains Resilient
There is at least one hopeful story on the vape industry horizon, however, and that is the resilient growth and success of The Blinc Group. The Blinc Group’s business model is built on a tripartite foundation of innovation, quality, and safety, and it seems to be working. Where many companies suffered lethal blows from the vape crisis and Covid-19, The Blinc Group has maintained a focus on expansion and upgrading their facilities to improve safety standards. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Arnaud Dumas du Rauly, CEO of The Blinc Group.
Arnaud Dumas du Rauly is also the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Chairman of Standards on Vaping Products and the Chairman of the European Commission on Standards on Vaping Products. In other words, The Blinc Group is serious about safety. This focus led to slower initial growth and higher product pricing than the industry standard, but with earnings for 2020 already matching earnings for all of 2019, The Blinc Group is seeing a major return on its investment.
During our interview, du Rauly spoke passionately about emissions, one of the industry’s primary safety issues. Because oils can undergo a change of state when they are vaporized, it is not possible to fully assess the potential toxicity of a product without testing emissions, typically using something called a “puffer machine”. This type of testing is not yet required in the U.S., but du Rauly is evangelical about its importance, not just for his company but industry-wide.
When the Covid-19 crisis hit and customers became more health-conscious in their buying behavior, The Blinc Group found itself in high demand with its start-to-finish supply chain control, a ten-year relationship with manufacturing facilities in China (which enabled them to keep their production on track as Covid-19 peaked there), and components that are ISO and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) compliant. It also allowed them to consolidate a position in the Canadian market, which is a highly regulated environment that few vaping product manufacturers in the U.S. are prepared to navigate.
Arnaud Dumas du Rauly admits that research has not yet caught up with the cannabis industry in terms of product safety, but in his own words, “the DNA of the company is making sure that safe products get out there.” The Blinc Group’s current trajectory suggests that success is also part of their genetic makeup.