What is your company’s story; how were you founded and what has been your journey over the years?
Back in 2012 a friend of mine started a shop for e-cigarettes, and this was when vaping first caught my attention. Soon after that I learned another friend of mine, Koen, was planning to start a webshop for e-cigarettes. That’s when I started to notice a pattern and Iasked myself, ‘Am I missing something here?’. I started researching on my own, looking into medical and scientific literature on e-cigarettes. My father died from lung cancer, and I was a smoker (at this point), so clearly I was very intrigued.
When I discovered that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, I decided I would propose to my friend Koen the idea about working together. At the time I was a commercial flight pilot, and was working mainly in the summer season. So this was my plan for the winter season.
I suggested to Koen that we think bigger and beyond just a webshop, which was his original plan. Before long, we had started working together in his small garage, which was no bigger than 20 square metres!
What products and services do you provide?
UEG stands for United E-smoking Group, and basically captures the whole story about our business. We have our own production facility where we produce e-liquids, plus private labelling and white labelling. We have our B2C website, and then there’s UEG Holland, which is our wholesale company. In addition to these, we also bought a wholesale company which provides ashtrays among its products, and a smaller company that also covers a range of e-cigarette related products. All together they make up UEG.
Where do you see UEG in 5 years’ time?
UEG is already the biggest vaping company in Benelux. We’ve achieved huge success since founding the company in early 2013 and remain well positioned to continue our growth trajectory, particularly with regards to navigating upcoming regulation which may drive out some of our smaller competitors.
I think the market overall is poised for signifcant growth. So, looking at the next five years we expect to be on an even stronger footing, which we believe will be positively supported by our collaboration with Plxsur.
What’s your view on how the market for vaping products has developed since the time of UEG’s inception, the growth drivers and any other factors unique to your market?
If we look back to a couple of years ago, the overall public opinion in Holland was driven by what the government and the media said, and the sentiment on e-cigerattes was far less positive. I suppose this was the case in every country, except the UK.
I would say the general understanding about vaping products has improved since Covid. There were drasitcally more smokers than vapers at the time of Covid, but since then numbers show there’s been a big uptake in vaping. There are still more smokers than vapers currently, but I think this will change in the coming years, thanks to all the new research that is coming out.
A big factor contributing to the development of the vaping market is of course the governments’ stance on vaping. Our government has now stated that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, and it is being recognised as a tool to help achieve the 2030 goal of having a smoke-free country. Overall it’s a positive development but will take time to resonate with everyone.
What work has UEG done to address the flavour ban?
Unlike most people, I view upcoming changes in regulation as an opportunity. From the many discussions I’ve had with vapers, including our customers, one thing is clear as day: no one wants to go back to traditional cigarettes. So once the flavour ban kicks in, on 1st October 2023, we are ready to help customers switch back (from fruit flavours) to the tobacco flavour. This might not appeal to each and every customer but being the most trusted brand and the biggest player in the market I am confident that our products will continue to sell.
Why did you decide to join Plxsur?
The answer is simple: I believe in Plxsur’s strategy. I love the idea of collaboration and believe that together we can be stronger and make a positive change in the world. The market needs a professional group working together to spread awareness about vaping being less harmful than smoking, and that it helps save lives.
Smoking has to stop. It is destroying lives; I have seen this on a personal level – both my father and uncle died from lung cancer. So naturally I’m very keen to help make a difference but I know it can’t be done alone. As a group we have a bigger voice and power to shape the vaping movement.
What most excites you about the Plxsur group for UEG?
Doing something new together, working with seasoned sector experts and creating opportunities.
What are the top three priorties or changes that you think are needed to advance the vaping industry?
There’s still a degree of minsinformation out there that needs to be addressed. The government can play a instrumental role in that. I would hope that going forwards their decisions are more evidence-based. I believe this is one of the changes we can help deliver working with Plxsur as a group.
Do you miss your days as a pilot?
Great question, but my answer is no. I was really excited in my early flying days, but after eight years I started to get bored of it. It wasn’t fun anymore. The dust had settled, and it became a mundane routine. I decided it wasn’t for me. I’m always looking for new challenges and I like to stretch my imagination.
What are your interests, hobbies and activities outside of work?
When I’m not working I’m spending time playing and exploring the outdoors with my lovely grandchildren.
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