LAS VEGAS — Sin City was alive last week with March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day and Tobacco Plus Expo International (TPE) 2016 — perhaps the only trade show where traditional tobacco products are featured alongside the latest in vapor, as well as a sprinkling of machinery manufacturers.
The vapor side of the show grew by roughly 5 percent this year compared to 2015, making up about 45 percent of the show’s overall exhibitors.
International representation was also a healthy part of the mix, most notably from Chinese suppliers, but also companies from Australia, Canada, The Netherlands and Korea.
To help attendees take in the even more eclectic mix, TPE 2016 added a half-day to the schedule, making it a three-day show. The event took place March 16-18 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
If you missed it, or just want a recap, here are five quick hits from TPE 2016:
1. The quality of nicotine is said to have a huge impact on e-liquid flavor (a smooth throat hit) and thus on the market. Alchem International’s NicSelect — said to be the first and, so far, only liquid nicotine that is branded — was at the show in its own booth. But it is also reportedly utilized in about half of the e-liquids exhibiting at the show, according to Tom Schrier, vice president of business development and sales for Alchem USA Inc. The 100-percent pharmaceutical-grade nicotine is the direction more e-liquids are headed, he predicted.
2. The best new products at the show were judged by local Las Vegas tobacco retailers and ran the full gamut of the industry, just like the show’s exhibitors. Grover, N.C.-based Cheyenne International’s limited-edition Tropical 100s Cigars was voted the best new tobacco product. Pomona, Calif.-based Square Advanced Hookah Systems took home the best new vapor product award. Color Flame Kings, out of Sarasota, Fla., won best new tobacco accessory with a refillable torch lighter that is windproof and features electronic ignition and red and green flames. Finally, the award for best non-tobacco product went to E-Liquid Therapeutics, based in Fremont, Calif., for BotaniVape.
3. Local legislative issues are in the spotlight and of increasing concern. Especially now while the industry awaits federal regulation, according to The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), which put the word out for show attendees to participate in the association’s “Fly-Ins” to Capitol Hill as an opportunity to meet their representatives, share business concerns and establish relationships. Thanks to proactive industry engagement, there have been several recent local regulation wins, according to SFATA, both on the traditional tobacco side and in the vapor realm.
4. Hookah is gaining traction, even somewhat in the convenience channel. One of the most innovative products in this segment, according to TPE 2016 buzz, is the Misha capsule. Said to be the “K-cup” of shisha, users shake the cone, peel the seal and pull the tag, and then nestle it on any water pipe. The idea is that the engineered “trench” of the system collects any juice that might have escaped from the capsule, keeping the user and the water pipe clean.
5. A live alpaca was definitely the furriest attraction at the show. The animal was in attendance representing the Alpaca Bowl Co. from Huntington Beach, Calif., maker of hookah bowls, regal hookahs, art hookahs and D-hoses. All products are made in the USA, according to the company.