When you hear the word "premium" what comes to mind? Higher quality? Better value? Utter bullshit designed to get you to pay more for the same item? If you picked the latter, you're closer to the truth. As consumers, we expect to pay more for better quality. After all there's a reason why a Mercedes typically costs more than a Chevrolet. Both make fine automobiles but the perception is that one is of higher quality than the other - hence why buyers are willing to pay more for the Mercedes. It's social currency. A person who drives an expensive luxury car is perceived to be of high value by those who see them and, as we all know, perception shapes reality.
But what about e-juice? When you've been around vaping for as long as I have, you see the word "premium" get thrown around a lot. "Try our premium juice! We only use top shelf ingredients!" Of course a premium price tag comes along with those premium ingredients but are you really getting better juice? Are the so-called "premium" juices really better than their budget-friendly cousins or is this just a marketing ploy to get you to shell out more of your hard-earned money for the same thing?
Let's Look Under the Hood
To understand what justifies the cost of the e-juice you enjoy, you first have to know what's in it. Vape juice typically contains 4-5 ingredients. They are:
- Propylene Glycol (PG) - a thin, odorless liquid which gives you your throat hit and transmits the flavor of the juice
- Vegetable Glycerin (VG) - a thicker, sweeter liquid which is responsible for cloud production
- Liquid Nicotine
- Purified Water (in some e-juice).
PG and VG make up approximately 85% - 95% of the juice you buy. They are fairly common products. Regardless of who makes the juice you buy, we all pretty much get our PG and VG from the same manufacturers. If someone tries to sell you on the idea that they only use expensive, high-quality PG and VG in their juice to justify their price, walk the hell out of their store and never look back. There is no such animal as premium PG or VG. They're all the same and don't you let anyone try and tell you different.
So what ingredient could possibly warrant some e-juice companies charging as much as $1 per milliliter? The flavoring. In the end, it's all about how good an e-juice tastes. If it's delicious, the demand for the juice is high, and consumers will be willing to shell out whatever the e-juice company wants to charge. If it tastes like armpit you can't even GIVE it away.
Just like cars, imported flavorings cost more than domestic ones. This can jack up the price of manufacturing which the e-juice company will pass along to the customer. You might think some savings can be found by extracting your own flavors yourself. In the long-run, this may be true, but the initial cost of equipment, time-consumption, and set-up can be quite steep. You may be thinking, "Hey! The Chinese make cheap stuff, right? Get your flavorings from China and save money!" In a word, no. Remember the Chinese pet food scare back in 2007? If you wouldn't feed your dog pet food made in China, would you really want to vape e-juice made there just to save a couple of bucks? No, I didn't think so.
For the most part, when buying domestically, there are only a few handfull of companies that make flavorings used by the e-cig industry. Some are better quality than others and all the e-juice makers buy from them.
Business Is Business
We all know that companies who make their product factor in the cost of production plus mark up. For example, if a shirt costs $25 to produce, the manufacturer will turn around and sell it to you for $65. If they find a less expensive source for things like cotton, buttons, and so on, they can reduce the cost to make the shirt and make an even BIGGER profit by selling it for the same price.
Did you see what I did just there?
Manufacturers are smart cookies. They better be if they want to stay in business. By cutting costs they make more per item in profit. Some cut costs by cutting quality. They make cheap, crappy, low-quality products, mark up the price as if they were using costly ingredients, and dress it up in fancy packaging to make you think it's the good stuff. Others work hard, negotiate better prices for quality ingredients, mark it up enough to keep them in business, and pass the savings on to the customer.
Now I can hear you thinking, "But if they're not price-gouging their products, how can they make enough money to stay in business?!?" It's simple, my friends. Volume. Sheer volume. Get quality ingredients at the best price you can, make great-tasting juice that people will love, and sell it at such a low price that people buy a shit-ton of it. That's how Richard Broke did it over at BrokeDick.com and he's been a runaway success ever since. He realized that delicious premium juice, with quality ingredients, doesn't have to have a premium price if you simply sell enough of it. Think about it, gang. Would you rather have one 30ml bottle of juice and pay $25 for it, or 240ml of great tasting, REAL premium juice for the same price?