Vapestick Invades Russia AND Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian e-cig users will soon have more a more varied range of smoke-free alternatives.
Vapestick is introducing its line of electronic cigarettes in Russia, according to The Wall Street Journal in the expectation of substantial market gains.
Distribution will be handled, at least during the early stages, by a nationwide pharmacological supplier based in Moscow, which will distribute both disposable and rechargeable e-cigs to the pharmacy chains Aptechka, Gorzdrav, 36.6/A.V.E., Samson-Farma, and the Ukrainian chain Farmazevt. (The drugstore chain 36.6 – named after the normal internal body temperature according to the Celsius scale – recently merged with the chain AVE – originally an acronym, but now claimed to mean "Hello" in Latin.) The supplier will also distribute to exclusive grocery stores.
The article in Wall Street Journal calls Vapestick "one of the first international e-cigarette brands" to roll out products in Russia. It would be more accurate to say it is one of the first from the Western Hemisphere. Vaping is already quite popular in Russia, and has its own vapers forums and Russia-dedicated pages on international e-cig forums. E-cigs are available in Russia from seven or eight Chinese companies, and from local and regional companies such as Papiroska, Moimod ("My mod"), and Esiga (Belarus).
The Journal quotes Euromonitor International to the effect that Russia is the world's second largest e-cigarette market, citing the fact that about one third of all Russians smoke cigarettes.
The British e-cig company Vapestick was founded in 2010, and soon rose to a position of prominence in European markets. At the end of 2013, it was purchased as a wholly owned subsidiary by the US company Victory (based in the state of Michigan), which merged with another US company, FIN Branding, at about the same time.
Vapestick co-founder Michael Clapper was made International President, and the very next month, the roll-out into Russia was announced. Victory/FIN/Vapestick, as the Journal notes, is moving into a very competitive position vis-à-vis other e-cigarette marketers, particularly those from Big Tobacco. (It is also worth noting that the company is among the independent e-cig firms being sued in the American courts by Britain's Imperial Tobacco – through a Dutch subsidiary – for patent infringement, based on Imperial's purchase of the Chinese company that marketed the original e-cig, allegedly along with its patents, which Imperial had no role in creating.) "The reaction... in Russia has exceeded our highest expectations," says Clapper. "We plan to maximize on this first-mover opportunity for an international brand in Russia." Victory's CEO Brent Willis chimes in: "Michael and his team have not wasted a moment since our acquisition... is a fantastic development for Victory and its shareholders, to gain a significant foothold in such a key strategic market." The fact that Vapestick will be working through a Russian pharmaceutical distributor could come in handy in a few years if the MHRA's proposed medicalisation of the e-cig takes place in Britain, and if some nicotine concentrations are labeled pharmaceuticals on the continent through the EU's TPD strictures.
Conceivably, it could even help with getting into US drugstore chains like CVS, which will be phasing out toxic cigarettes later this year.
Bravo Vapestick! Or as they say in Russia: Maladyéts! ("attaboy", "nice going" "ruddy good show")