Meet the founder

15 May 2023

Umberto Roccatti, Founder of Puff Store

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What is your company’s story; how were you founded and what has been your journey over the years?

 

Founded in 2010, we just celebrated our 13th anniversary on the 25th of March 2023. We were born as a website, then opened our first store in the centre of Turin in 2011.

 

What products and services do you provide and where do you operate?

 

Puff Store is an integrated vaping solution Company with 214 stores, 14 of which are owned and 200 franchised. We have online operations and distribution operations across both vape stores and tobacco stores. By Italian law, it is forbidden to sell in convenience stores (you can only sell with authorization from the government, in stores of maximum 250sq meters, so distribution is limited) but we distribute to around 1,500 vape stores and 30,000 tobacco stores, covering aorund 70% of the market.

 

We produce e-liquids in our factory in Turin, and also cover engineering and hardware design.

 

We are a fully integrated vaping solution Company – we call Puff ‘the one stop solution’ because we have our own production line, our own distribution network, our own retail chain, and we also partner with many international companies that want to sell their products in the Italian market. We are the preferred partner and co-packer of many brands around the world for the Italian market.

 

Our production is made in Italy, but we also co-pack other brands, such as Charlie’s Chalk Dust and PG VG labs, Fruitia, Riot squad, as well as for various American and Canadian companies; we take these international leading brands to an Italian audience with a structured distribution plan.

 

What are your biggest priorities at the moment and where do you see Puff in 5 years time?

 

In the next 5 years we see Puff in a much more structured retail network. We want to really empower the retail network. At the same time, we want to strengthen our distribution portfolio and be the most consistent supplier for the vape market in Italy.

 

What do you think the biggest challenge is today facing the vaping category, and how does Puff plan to address it?

 

The biggest challenge is the kind of legislation we are going to have from many incoming European directives – we have at least five EU directives that will come into force in the next few months and years that will have an impact. These include the Tobacco Products Directive, Tobacco Excise Directive, Battery Directive, Paper and Plastic Waste Directive, and the CLP Regulation.

 

As such, the sector is still not totally settled and it is very important that the industry creates a balanced legislation platform.

 

Further to this, there is the anarchic part of the vaping industry – the rough trader, the smuggler, all those who positioned vaping in a bad light in front of institutional stakeholders; this is also a big threat. It will be our responsibility to put them in line and make them align with responsible market activities.

 

What is the Italian government’s stance on vaping?

 

Public Health Italy is not pro-vape however some departments, such as the Financial Department, or the Development Department, are favourable towards vaping. They recognise that aside from the risk reduction aspect, we are an industry that employs 15,000 people directly and 45,000 indirectly, including youth employment and small enterprises.

 

Where do you see the vaping category in 10 years’ time?

 

I see the vpaing sector as being much bigger than it is now. Smoking is becoming less of a social habit, but a social judgement. Everything has changed in the last 18 months since vaping products have become easier to use and more accessible. I think people are paying more attention to their health, so I think that in 10 years, the sector will be far bigger. The extent will depend on regulation, rather than from consumer preferences or actions from corporates. The impact of legislation will be important.

 

Why did you decide to join Plxsur? What does it mean to Puff Store?

 

For Puff Store it provides the recognition of being an important, fundamental player in the Italian market. For us, it provides a big opportunity to create synergies around Europe and around the world.

 

Plxsur will be extremely important for two other aspects: firstly, this market needs competencies; when there is a network of leaders, there will be a sharing of competencies and best practices that goes beyond the business. Not only can you increase business relationships between the group, but you can also exploit and improve the single operation of any company.

 

Secondly, we have some obstacles in front of us, such as legislation and its impact, and so being part of a big group will help us to be more consistent in planning our future, and to be faster and more efficient in applying relevant changes.

 

What are the top three priorties or changes that you think are needed to advance the vaping industry?

 

First of all, more responsible business practices. There is too much of a ‘grab-and-go’ approach from many companies, so we need a better and more responsible approach from the industry.

 

Second of all, we need to make our voice heard backed up by science. In some way, despite being a consumer good, we are a wellbeing industry, because we improve the lives of smokers who can’t or don’t want to stop smoking.

 

And finally, we must give more assurance to both the trade and institutional stakeholders around what we plan to do. We have to act directly, proactively and we must be overcompliant: we cannot just wait and pray for a good regulation. If we want balanced regulation, we have to be responsible ourselves.

 

How did you get into the vaping category? Have you ever been a smoker?

 

I was a smoker of 30 cigarettes a day until my brother in law put an e-cigarette in my hand which resulted in me cutting down to five cigarettes a day. Then I embarked on the unbelievable journey of Puff Store. The most important thing is that my life has changed because I totally recovered my body. When you stop smoking, within two to three months, you feel like a different person.

 

I vape 50% without nicotine, and 50% with low-level nicotine between 4-6mg per ml. I vape everything : the tobacco taste with nicotine and the fruit and creamy taste mostly without nicotine.

 

I am very fit, I used to be ski racer and instructor. Now I vape, the love of sport and wellbeing has really come back to me. I am able to do 10,000 km on my bicycle – I’m a big rider.

 

What are your interests outside of work?

 

I love reading and I’m fond of astrophysics, as part of my curiosity on how things really work. But my real love is sport and now as a vaper, I can fully participate.

 

Ride for Vape was my idea, which has the aim of educating the public about the public health benefits of vapes. I have done three rides so far; the first one was in 2020 and I cycled from Turin to Rome, 700km in three days, the second one I did was from Bolzen, near Austria, to Rome and last year, I cycled from Turin to Strasbourg Parliament.

 

I concluded each ride with a mission to make change, speaking to Public Health Italy, the Financial Department or certain Members of Parliament. Helpfully, we are seeing results; as an example in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, vaping was highlighted as an instrument that can prevent and can help smokers quit.

 

This year I plan to cycle from Pescara to Rome, from the Adriatic Sea to the Tyrrhenian Sea which is 250km in one day, on the 16th of May.

 

 

Visit the Puff Store website here

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