Words and photos by Chris Mellides
Offered in an endless variety of flavors from the simple to the complex, e-liquid is an essential component of vaping, driving sales in an industry where premium juice often comes at a premium price.
Beyond the popular RY4 and other tried tobacco blends, no brick and mortar or online store seems to suffer from an absence of fruits, desserts, cereals and custards in its inventory, as the preferences and palates of its clientele demand liquids that differ from what they’ve sampled before.
The array of unique juices with robust flavorings are not in short supply, as popular brands continue expanding to meet customer demands, while newer companies blink into existence, bringing new product to market and helping to raise the industry’s high-water mark for the remainder of 2015.
Alabama-based Cyclops Vapor is one of these companies. Founding member Zack Carpenter smoked anywhere from one to two packs of cigarettes per day for 15 years before discovering e-cigarettes as a smoking alternative in 2010.
While hugely beneficial to an ex-smoker, Carpenter said something was lacking in the e-liquid equation.
“I did my research, looking around and had ordered all of the juice online, and I just wasn’t happy with what I was getting,” Carpenter said. “You would sit there and you’d wait and you never knew what you were going to get in the mail.”
He added, “And even if you found one, the consistency of it wasn’t consistent. That’s kind of where Cyclops Vapor was born.”
Partnering with Gary Lambert Jr., Carpenter found a friend in his fellow entrepreneur, and the two decided to combine their strengths and resources to deliver a quality product that was to both their liking and one that the vaping community would also enjoy.
“Once we start creating something we spend time on that flavor, and we don’t release it until we feel that it’s at its full potential,” Carpenter said. “We do tons of testing on what ingredients mix well with others so that we can get the right consistency for a healthier product.”
There currently are six flavors in the Cyclops Vapor lineup, with e-liquid names and label art that draw heavily from Greek mythology. A conscious decision that played on Lambert’s tall stature and heavy build, and Carpenter’s one functioning eye.
When the duo released their original premium line at the time of the company’s founding two-and-a-half years ago, the introductory price was $22 for a 30 ml bottle. Now, just a short time later, Cyclops Vapor offers its juice starting at $13.99 for a 30 ml bottle and $25.99 and $49.99 for 60 ml and 120 ml bottles, respectively.
A move Carpenter said was in the making, but that introducing his juice at the original $22 price point was what his
story continues below…
…continued from above
company needed when it started, adding that at the time “that’s where the market was at” and that his product had to conform to that industry standard in pricing.
“I think we were just the first ones to do it,” Carpenter said, explaining the Cyclops Vapor price drop. “I think the market is going in that direction, and we’ve taken a lot of notes from our consumers and from the industry out there and that’s where people want it at. It’s a good spot for it to be.”
Joseph Cassidy, an employee at Liquid Lyfe, a vape shop that opened its doors six months ago on the North Shore of Long Island, said that he believes e-liquid companies are attempting to find a “stable rate of price” and that he doesn’t think the price has gone “that far up,” but that price-dropping doesn’t seem unreasonable.
“We were seeing 36 mg and 24 mg strength e-liquids five years ago, so to see it come down that much and knowing that nicotine is the most expensive e-liquid component, I would say that it would be reasonable to ask them to lower the price slightly,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy said that he believes some e-liquid companies do reinvest their extra profits and would hope that after recovering start up and initial production expenses, e-liquid manufacturers would lower the cost of their product.
“I noticed that most good companies that we’re seeing and we’re labeling as premium companies are the companies that are reinvesting in their facilities, doubling their size, and making sure that they can keep up with the growing market,” Cassidy said. “So as much as you can say on the short term that we see a price increase, it may be for our own health, and that would be the best outlook.”
Eddie Sampson, a North Babylon, New York resident and a customer at Liquid Lyfe, seems to agree. A vaper of three years, Sampson said that in the end, consumer health is the most critical component of the vaping industry’s success moving forward.
Sampson said that thanks to vaping, he’s now able to play football with his 5-year-old son without succumbing to shortness of breath and fatigue and is enjoying improvements to his overall health since he stopped using combustible tobacco. “Cost versus health risk, I’ll take that any day of the week,” Sampson said.
Like Cassidy and Sampson, the Cyclops Vapor founder has his doubts about what industry pricing on e-liquid will look like in the long term, but that vapers, just like any other consumer base, ultimately will purchase what they want and what their budgets will allow.
“Our price change didn’t take and bring everybody over from paying 22 bucks a bottle down to our $13.99 a bottle,”
Carpenter said. “You have people that don’t mind spending that because they’re getting what they want, and that’s what we do. We provide the consumer with what they want.”