Have you ever wondered about the life of a bottle of e-liquid – what happens to it and what it goes through before finally reaching you? As it turns out, many of the bottles of vape juice that you buy have actually passed through several hands already. E-liquid is big business these days, and the production and distribution of vape juice has become a well-oiled machine. So, how is e-liquid made and distributed? Let’s learn more about what happens to those bottles of vape juice before you buy them.
How E-Liquid Is Made
Today, almost all e-liquid is made at large facilities by companies called “white label” manufacturers. A white label manufacturer is a company that manufactures a product but doesn’t put its own name on it. Instead of putting its own name on the package, the white label manufacturer makes the product according to another company’s specifications and puts that company’s name on the product. Almost every bottle of e-liquid that you buy is actually made by a manufacturer that produces vape juice for many different brands.
White label manufacturers make it possible for smaller e-liquid brands to get started in the industry even if they lack the resources to construct their own factories. A white label manufacturer has already invested the necessary capital to build a clean room facility and handles product consistency and quality control on the e-liquid brand’s behalf.
Do Independent E-Liquid Makers Still Exist?
Today, it is financially unfeasible for most e-liquid brands to vertically integrate themselves and produce their own vape juice. Offering product quality similar to what a white label manufacturer can offer would likely require an investment of millions of dollars. It’s also legally unfeasible in the United States because a new e-liquid brand can’t launch without first going through the PMTA process.
There are still a few vape juice manufacturers who make their own e-liquid in small labs that they’ve constructed themselves or in mixing facilities at vape shops. There aren’t many of those brands left, though, because they would have needed to be in business already when the FDA announced its regulations for the vaping industry in 2016. Over the years, those smaller brands have slowly dropped away as mass-market e-liquid has increased in prominence.
How E-Liquid Is Distributed
After it’s manufactured at the white label facility, e-liquid is shipped to the company that ordered it. Many e-liquid brands – like UK vape juice maker Second City Vapour – do sell direct to the public, and some brands also sell juice to vape shops on a wholesale basis. Most vape juice, however, goes from the brands to a massive worldwide network of distributors. Distributors do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to transporting e-liquid, often shipping dozens of bottles to vape shops at a time.
What Determines the Price of E-Liquid?
At each step along the line from the original manufacturer to the final sale to the end user, someone needs to earn a profit. So, although the profit margins in the e-liquid industry can be enviable, retail prices and profit margins have both gone down considerably over the years.
- Most e-liquid brands aren’t making their own products from raw materials; they’re buying finished goods from white label manufacturers. That’s more expensive than making your own products, but building a clean room facility is unfeasible for most e-liquid brands.
- Most vape juice goes to distributors who then sell it to vape shops. Distributors have to keep their prices low. In turn, they expect e-liquid brands to give them very attractive price structures.
- Selling e-liquid to a distributor results in relatively low profits for an e-liquid brand. However, it’s much easier to ship dozens of bottles to one buyer than it is to ship individual bottles to dozens of buyers – so wholesale business is very important for e-liquid brands.
- E-liquid brands earn their highest profit margins from selling direct to consumers, but the profits are offset somewhat by the labor involved in packing the orders. Vape juice brands must be careful to maintain the highest price points that their customers will accept; if they undercut the vape shops that sell their products, they’ll risk losing wholesale business.
Is It Better to Buy Vape Juice Direct From the Manufacturer?
As you can now see, a typical bottle of e-liquid passes through many hands. Before it finally reaches you, the following things occur.
- A white label manufacturer makes the product.
- The manufacturer ships it to the e-liquid brand.
- The e-liquid brand ships it to a distributor.
- The distributor ships it to a vape shop.
- You buy it from the vape shop.
The modern production and distribution model for e-liquid is the reason why vape juice steeping simply isn’t as relevant today as it once was. When entrepreneurs made vape juice on demand – in their homes – and shipped it direct to consumers, bottles of e-liquid might only be a week or two old when customers received them. When you have an e-liquid that was manufactured very recently, steeping can help to remove the vape juice’s harsh edges and encourage the different flavor notes to meld together.
Today, though, it’s likely that almost every bottle of vape juice you buy is at least a month or two old by the time you receive it. It’s had plenty of time to steep and already tastes as good as it ever will.
When you consider the age of your e-liquid, though, it brings up an interesting question. Some people like the flavor of a vape juice that’s already had several months to steep. Others, though, would rather have a vape juice that’s as new as possible – either for maximum freshness or for maximum storage life.
If you haven’t started to think about the upcoming PMTA deadline yet, now is the time to start. It is highly probable that many of your favorite e-liquid flavors will be going away for good this September. If it’s stored well, vape juice can easily last for a year or more with no degradation in flavor quality. If you’re thinking about getting some e-liquid for long-term storage, you might want to consider buying it directly from the manufacturer for the best possible chance of getting a bottle that was manufactured recently.