By Norm Bour
If we look back at vape events and conventions over the past decade, many have come, and most have gone. In 2013, the Electronic Cigarette Convention, known as ECC, was launched in Ontario, California, and for many years was the 800-pound gorilla of e-cigarette trade shows. Others caught wind of the successful event and copied it to the point of where there were dozens of events running year-round throughout the United States.
The ECC held its last event in 2019. However, the international vape market recreated the ECC’s former success with other vaping events. Cities like London, Paris, Moscow and others became powerhouse venues, and then a new entity, IECIE, jumped onto the show scene in the global center of vaping hardware manufacturing: Shenzhen, China. The success of Shenzhen’s show led to the later creation of an additional Shanghai event.
Shenzhen-based companies design and manufacture an estimated 90 percent of the world’s vaping and e-cigarette devices. There are more than 1,000 factories and thousands of support companies that form the supply chain throughout Guangdong Province and the rest of China.
IECIE, a division of mega-event company Informa, launched in January 2016. Over the years, the company has been a major player in international vaping events. Even with the cumbersome visa issues getting into China, the world vape market knew that IECIE brought together the manufacturers that they needed, and the exhibitors showed up in droves. IECIE officials thought that “if they build it, they will come.”
Informa puts on 230-plus events annually and brings in 60,000 exhibitors in many industries aside from vaping. Ironically, China put a heavy hammer down on vaping last year by banning flavors, except for tobacco, and is vehemently fighting underage sales of products. Currently, they are still allowed to export products, which is key in the global supply chain.
Those new rules caused many major vaping electronics manufacturing companies’ stocks to drop after the regulations were announced, and most companies have cut back on employees or closed completely. What the Chinese smokers in China will do is unknown since their choices have now been severely curtailed. Numerous experts have predicted that many will return to combustible products.
With all the new regulations in place, event companies like Informa have but one direction to follow, and that is to move the events outside of China. That new path will lead to Verona, Italy, May 27–29, as the IECIE team joins with another longstanding vape player, Vapitaly, in their first joint venture.
The event will be at the Fiere di Verona exhibition center, which houses 8,000 square feet of meeting space, and organizers hope to entice more than 100 exhibitors and 10,000 guests like they did in 2022. Fortunately, Vapitaly has had a successful track record since 2015 in achieving the lofty goal.
In this post-Covid world, it’s also a matter of information sharing and education as well as sales, and the event will bring in speakers and forums to discuss the challenges and possible solutions for the future of vaping. Vapitaly, the only international vaping exhibition in Italy, is already the world’s largest event in the vape space, so this new collaboration should cement its place as leaders in the industry.
Mose Giacomello, Vapitaly president, stated on the company’s website that Vapitaly is “ready to return with all the latest products in the sector, with a focus on internationalization, and [is] proud to have been chosen by the most important vaping show in Asia, which will be in Italy, and Europe, for the first time.
“This major opportunity to meet and do business comes in the wake of the efforts made in recent years to enhance and develop the sector. We are looking forward to seeing operators and professionals from Italy and abroad once more and to seeing vapers browsing the stands of our exhibition.”
An industry player in Italy, who asked to remain anonymous, said that they shared some concerns about what they called “the Chinese vendors,” and fear that they will not follow the stringent rules at the event itself. Laws forbid the sale of products on-site, but IECIE has assured Vapitaly that they understand all the laws as well as the very specific labeling requirements, that IECIE has conveyed the regulations to all their exhibitors and that they will abide by them.
IECIE will have all the current products on display, including disposables, open pod systems and closed pod systems, atomizers, mods, e-liquids and vaping accessories along with new and better products in this ever-changing world of technology.
The challenge that IECIE faces, aside from the regulations about sales of vape products in China, is that those regulations also shut down the Chinese vaping event industry. Without a market in their home country, vaping event planners have no other choice than to form collaborations with other international companies—or hold their own events outside China.
And that is what their next chapter will present as IECIE launches its second IECIE Vape Show Jakarta, Aug. 3–5, with another planned for next winter. This is a partnership with 2firsts.com, a multifaceted supply chain and operations team that works with compliance issues and manufacturing with vape entities worldwide.
This will be the first show that IECIE will sponsor outside China, and they are in conversations with other entities to expand further. They currently have offices in Dubai, New York and Brazil and have a satellite office in Jakarta.
Even though the Southeast Asia market is estimated to reach $766 million in 2023, and grow exponentially, Informa sees that expansion and partnering with the Western world and Middle East as critical. They are also working on an event to be held in Saudi Arabia.
The August show in Jakarta is expected to bring in 300 exhibitors and house them in 12,000 square feet of floor space, a 30 percent increase from 2022.
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and works with vape businesses worldwide. He can be reached at [email protected].