A Derry 'vaping' manufacturer that exports 400,000 bottles of ‘e-juice’ to Europe each week has posted phenomenal growth figures in the first quarter of the financial year.
Apache Vape, trading as Superior E-Liquid from its plant at the Elagh Business Park on the Buncrana Road, was set up three years ago to supply the growing market for vaporised chemicals and nicotine for use in electronic cigarettes.
Local entrepreneur Stephen Ryan, who employs 40 people at the home-grown business, told the 'Journal' this week that the company had already matched 90.2 per cent of last year's turnover in the first quarter of 2019/20.
"We started three years ago in February 2016 and the main growth we've had has been in the past year-and-a-half.
"At the end of the first quarter of this year we have done 90.2 of last year's takings.
"Based on that we estimate turnover is going to be around £8m this year and next year, based on new contracts, we'll be looking at £15m," said Mr. Ryan.
The manufacturer is the only factory in the North, and one of only three in Ireland, to have met the EU's strict Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which governs what can and cannot go into 'e-juice'.
Mr. Ryan explained: "There are only five ingredients: nicotine, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, the flavourings and water.
"Vegetable glycerin is in your toothpaste. It's a preservative. Propylene glycol carries the nicotine and the flavours around."
The local businessman said a recent study by Professor Joseph Wu, of Stanford University School of Medicine in the US, that warned 'e-liquids' could adversely affect human endothelial cells, was relevant only to the lightly regulated US industry but not here where a strict EC regime applies.
"This is an American study and it is saying that flavours like menthol and cinnamon are highly potent. That is true in America. The reason for that is that they use a chemical called diacetyl. Under the EU legislation, which is the UK and Europe, that's been eliminated so the flavours in the UK can't have a diacetyl."
The standards in Europe are higher, he said.
"Anything we manufacture as a company is governed under the TPD. If you take one of our products you'll see an EC number that is unique to that product, that flavour. If we have another product it has a different number.
"For us to get the numbers for those products is like getting a licence plate for your car. It has to be manufactured and then it has to be independently tested," said Mr. Ryan, who expects to take on new workers as the company expands further into Europe over the next five years.