• April 17, 2024

Panel: Innovating Products for the Future

 Panel: Innovating Products for the Future

Discussing the future of innovation in nicotine products is complicated. The industry is innovating at lightning speed, especially in batteries and atomization. However, manufacturers don’t often want to discuss innovations in progress because competition in the next-generation nicotine-delivery segment is fierce. It’s not uncommon for a company to launch a new innovative design only to see its IP stolen and used in counterfeit products.

During the panel “Innovating Products for the Future,” moderator Eve Wang, executive director of Smoore International and vice president of Shenzhen Smoore Technology Co., questioned five industry experts about how they imagine the future of the vaping industry. The participants agreed that innovation would continue boosting the harm reduction potential of next-generation nicotine-delivery products. Surprisingly, they all willingly shared interesting insights into new product innovation.

Tao Cui, director of innovation, strategy and compliance at Innokin Technology, said that future vaping products will likely be more individualized, more efficient and more intelligent. He also said that products will continue to become less harmful. He said the heating element is especially an area that will see more innovation.

“In a perfect scenario, you can control the temperature as low as possible and also precisely control it. And, if you have a much, much less harmful substance, we combine both together, then we have a less harmful product,” he said. “In the future, I would say the products will be more individualized because no one product fits 1 billion people. In the future, your product may adapt to your habits. The product may know if you need more [puffs] in the morning, in the afternoon, today or tomorrow.”

Cui outlined some potential solutions for sustainability-related issues, including the use of research and development. He proposed that countries that have successfully controlled youth usage could offer insight; they could accomplish this by better regulating flavor names and packaging.

James Kuang, chief scientist and head of the Life Science Institute at ICCPP, parent to Voopoo vaping products, stated that the innovation of products is needed to balance user experience, harm reduction and environmental protection. “Yes, we should develop some [better batteries] and [e-liquid bases] for that. “We talk about the effective battery …. Can we do something for our environment by developing different [e-liquids]? I say if we can develop some new type of [e-liquid base] … for example, can we use some nature-sourced alcohol? …. Another solution, I think, is a water-based solution. In my opinion, a water-based [solution] may be the best product for the future.”

Fadi Maayta, president and co-founder of Alternative Nicotine Delivery Solutions (ANDS), stated that the next stage of innovation should be aimed at protecting consumers—especially nonsmokers and ex-smokers—and youth. He noted that it was the responsibility of the industry to ensure it was on the right path to responsible growth. He said that artificial intelligence (AI) could play for both the industry and regulators by helping to better analyze data concerning consumers and product use.

“I know many companies that invested in applications to link [AI] to the device to tell the consumer how many puffs they took, what’s the health risk. All these apps failed. I don’t see consumers really using it, to be realistic,” said Maayta. “It will help consumers to get more data. It will help companies and factories [know where] to locate and know how to get the right product for the consumers through using that engine but also externally for the regulators and policymakers to get data about these products. It might help in tracking as well, track and trace for the product.”

When it comes to eco-friendly products, Maayta claimed that a rational vision of environmental sustainability involves four distinct pillars. The first pillar is the product. Manufacturers should use the right elements … cardboard, biodegradable silicon and biodegradable plastics. The second pillar is showing that your claims of eco-friendliness are provable—that they can be substantiated.

“If you want to claim that your product is recoverable and recyclable, and your product can be recycled to 99 percent, whatever—you [had] better be careful. You are in a very controversial industry, and every word will be tracked,” he said. “You better [be able] to substantiate every word, every percentage, everything you say about the recyclability and the probability of the product.”

The third pillar is that if you market an eco-friendly product, you need to have a program to support recycling. The collection of these products is important. “Make it simple … because consumers need simplicity,” he said. “You used to have a cigarette and a lighter. That’s it. You are giving them an electronic device. They don’t want to have a headache there.”

The fourth element is regulation. Maayta said regulators should be involved in investing in approving sustainable products and possibly incentivizing recycling programs. He criticized manufacturers that aggressively market products that appeal to youth. He criticized regulators for not doing more to remove the “bad players” from the market because it’s leading to good manufacturers being replaced by the black market.

Cherry Pan, managing director of consumer and marketplace insights at Altria, said that as the industry moves toward more “eco-friendly” products, the term needs to be better defined. Pan said that the environment should be a concern for all manufacturers. She also suggested that manufacturers could play a more innovative role in the design of eco-friendly products.

“First, how to define eco-friendly … that means you’re 100 percent recycled or 50 percent recycled or 30 percent? …. Or does it mean that we use vaping products that are less harmful than cigarettes? This also means it’s eco-friendly,” Pan explained. “We will make about 150 to 200 new products every year [not necessarily that make it to market] with our army engineers. We have about 150 engineers. So we also must make products which we [consider] eco-friendly because we can recycle it, maybe 70 [percent] to 80 percent. We use some degradable materials. The percentage we use is higher [than many other products]. We want to make removable batteries.”

Ryan Selby, CEO of Generative AI Solutions and executive chairman at The Modern Nicotine Co., said that innovation will not bring about a one-size-fits-all solution for consumers. It’s going to take a comprehensive approach to create choices for consumers through innovation. However, he doesn’t know what the next best thing is.

“I do think we need to keep our eyes on the future and look at there’s some big changes coming down in terms of the virtual and augmented reality experiences,” Selby said. “In the oral space, looking at opportunities for creating more personal nicotine experiences that have a lower [third-party] impact as well as lower the impact on the environment.”

Selby also said that AI could be beneficial in providing consumer insight and in helping find innovative ways to restrict youth access. He said AI can aid the nicotine industry by helping to reduce harm by analyzing data. Regulators may even be better able to understand the consumer experience.

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for AI in this space to help feed in massive amounts of data set and tease out some of these interactions between devices … looking at opportunities for combining substances and devices in a way that can reduce the harms associated with [use],” said Selby. “I think there is tremendous promise with large data sets and the ability of AI to tease out some hidden secrets in there that can help us to continue moving in the right direction.”