THE RUTHLESS APPROACH TO THE E-LIQUID MARKET
Using innovative and aggressive marketing,
Ruthless E -Juice hopes to double international sales in 2016.
By Maria Verven
Photo courtesy of Ruthless E-Juice
By developing a line of unique gourmet flavors favored by discriminating vapers, Ruthless E-Juice has become one of the most successful e -liquid brands in the United States.
Now, living up to their name, the men and women behind Ruthless are developing an aggressive, almost “ruthless” approach to the international market. While Ruthless is already selling about 40 percent of its products overseas, CEO Allen Querido said they are aiming to double international sales in 2016.
“We have a big international presence, but there’s still a ways to go,” Querido said, adding that Ruthless is distributed in Australia, China, France, Germany, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the U.K.
This spring and summer, Querido and his Ruthless colleagues exhibited in their first international vape shows, including Vape Jam UK in early May and Vape China Expo in July. They’ll attend at least six more international shows before the end of the year, including Vapexpo in Paris in September, meeting with distributors, store owners and vapers.
“We’re bringing our team to them so they can get to know what we’re all about. We want Ruthless to be available to all cultures of the world,” Querido said. “We want everywhere there’s vaping to know about and taste our products.”
From Chef to E-Liquid Connoisseur
Several years ago, when Allen Querido was in culinary school, he had no idea he would end up using his cooking talents to create new e-liquid recipes.
Querido and his buddy Ramon Barredo, Ruthless’ COO, were introduced to vaping during a trip to visit family in the Philippines in late 2011.
“I was just smoking socially, but Ramon was smoking more like a pack a day,” Querido said. “Ramon had struggled trying to quit smoking, so a cousin gave him his first vaporizer as a gift,” he said. When they got back to California, they set out to learn more about vaping and the e -liquids on the market.
“There was a lot of e- juice out there, but not a lot of creativity going on in the industry, and none that we really liked,” Querido said, explaining why he and Barredo decided to try making their own e -liquids in early 2012.
“They weren’t well made, were too simplistic and didn’t give you that fullness, that full punch of flavor, that ‘wow’ factor,” he said.
Suddenly Stuff Came Out Well
So the pair bought some flavorings and started mixing and creating recipes in Ramon’s kitchen. “Suddenly stuff came out pretty well,” Querido said.
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Their first break came when a friend and owner of the new vape shop Vapor Junkies offered to sell their e- juices. He selected five flavors: EZ Duz It, Grape Drank, C.r.e.a.m.sickle, Slurricane and Peach Fuzz, flavors that Ruthless continues to make to this day.
By the middle of 2012, they were selling so much that they had to move operations out of Ramon’s kitchen into a 500 square- foot warehouse in La Puentes, Calif.
“We saw huge potential,” Querido said. “We visited stores every single day, pushing our products as hard as we could. We got a lot of great reviews, social media followers and developed a lot of relationships in the industry,” he said, explaining the reasons behind their success.
By the middle of 2013, they had to relocate once again. Ruthless’ storage and shipping are now handled in a 10,000 square – foot space in San Dimas, Calif., while a second facility in Walnut, Calif. houses the mixing, manufacturing, bottling and labeling.
Proud of their ISO -certified Walnut facility, Querido often invites customers to visit. “We’re trying to get the same FDA certification that pharmaceutical companies have,” he said.
More than 1,000 stores carry Ruthless E- Juice and its staff now numbers to more than 40, mostly in production, shipping, packaging, marketing and sales. Querido said they’re planning to expand to a 25,000 square -foot facility by the end of the year so they can bring everything together under one roof.
A Smoother, Sweeter Vape
Querido is fussy when it comes to all of the ingredients that go into Ruthless E -Juice—especially the nicotine.
“We wanted to get the best available nicotine with certification, and choose a company that could move forward with us,” Querido said. “NicSelect offered all of that. The other nicotine we tried was harsher, with a sharper throat hit. The color was sometimes too brownish or the liquid was fishy smelling,” he said. “It just wasn’t appealing when mixed with our flavors.
“We tested NicSelect with all of our juices, and it came out with the best flavor,” he said. “We knew we wanted to use it for all our e -juices going forward.” Ruthless uses NicSelect’s VG blend, which offers what Querido describes as a “smoother, sweeter vape.”
He also appreciates the customer service he gets from Nicotine River, one of NicSelect’s exclusive distributors. “Just having someone always available was really big to us,” he said.
Querido said they use NicSelect for all of its flavors, including their most popular: EZ Duz It, EZ Duz It on Ice, Swamp Thang, Jungle Fever and Slurricane.
The Debut of La Dolce Vita and The Breakfast Club
In May, Ruthless released a new flavor it called La Dolce Vita – a unique combination of “vanilla pistachio Italian gelato.” Introduced at Vape Jam UK and featuring unique packaging, Ruthless only released 50,000 units of La Dolce Vita. As of press time, they’re close to selling out. “When people know a flavor is harder to get, they appreciate it even more,” Querido said.
But the Ruthless team didn’t stop there. They’re now launching four new breakfast flavors in a new line called The Breakfast Club.
“We tried a lot of breakfast flavors, but weren’t satisfied to the max,” Querido said. “So we took the four most popular breakfast cereals, and made sure every one of those flavors was exactly what it should taste like and put them together in one line.”
The Breakfast Club flavors Vape Flakes, Apple Snaxx, Crunchberry, and Froops were released in June, and are already taking off in popularity, Querido said.
“We sold close to 50,000 bottles in one month,” Querido said. He believes they’re popular because it offers everyone’s favorite cereal in one juice line. The international response has also been very positive. “I just got back from China a week ago, and it was a hit even there, even though they probably don’t recognize the names,” he said.
Several new flavors are still in the hopper at Ruthless. “We don’t like to release new flavors all the time; we like to give each flavor a ‘run’ and then market it correctly,” he said.
Every e- liquid flavor released by Ruthless passes through Querido’s finely tuned palate. “I still work in the lab and have to be the one creating recipes for new flavors.
“Vapers change constantly, so we do a lot of market research to see what flavors are popular at the moment,” he said. “But we don’t ever want to release anything that’s redundant. We develop something within the same context but that’s totally different.”
For more information, visit http://www.ruthlessvapor.com/.
The original Vaping Vamp, Maria Verven is partner and chief marketing mentor of VapeMentors.com.