Chinese Buy Up Bottles of Fresh Air From Canada
A Canadian company which started out bottling Rocky Mountains air as a joke has seen its product fly off the shelves in pollution-hit China, with the first shipment selling out in four days.
by Jennifer Pak, Shenzhen
A Chinese woman wears a mask connected to a filter in Beijing (Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
A Canadian start-up company bottling fresh air from the Rocky Mountains has seen sales to China soar because of rising pollution levels.
Vitality Air was founded last year in the western Canadian city of Edmonton but began selling in China less than two months ago.
— Vitality Air (@vitalityair) December 11, 2015
“Our first shipment of 500 bottles of fresh air were sold in four days,” co-founder Moses Lam says in a telephone interview with the Telegraph.
A crate containing 4,000 more bottles is making its way to China, but he says most of that shipment has been bought.
Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada (Photo: Alamy)
A 7.7 Litre can of crisp air taken from Banff National Park in the majestic Rocky Mountains range sells for roughly 100 yuan (£10), which is 50 times more expensive than a bottle of mineral water in China.
The levels of pollution are so high it makes selling bottled air to China a viable business.
Most of their customers live in big cities in the northeastern and southern parts of China where severe pollution warnings have become a common occurence.
State news agency Xinhua has posted a picture online of the city centre barely visible under a thick soup of smog on Tuesday and reflects local frustrations with the caption: “Heavy smog hit China, again!”
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) December 15, 2015
You just breath it in.
This comes just over a week after Beijing issued a red alert for pollution that forced half of the cars off the roads.
The Canadian company is not the first to sell fresh air to the Chinese.
Last year, Beijing artist Liang Kegang fetched the equivalent of £512 for a glass jar filled with air taken from a business trip in southern France.
Beijing artist Liang Kegang poses with the jar of fresh air collected in Provence, France (Photo: Didi Tang/AP)
In 2013, multimillionaire Chen Guangbiao sold pop-sized cans of air purportedly taken from less industrialised regions of China for 5 yuan (£0.50) each.
Vitality Air’s Mr Lam admits that he started out the company as a joke as well when he and co-founder Troy Paquette filled a plastic bag of air and sold it for less than 50 pence on the auction site Ebay.
A second bag sold for $160 (£105).
“That’s when we realised there is a market for this,” says Mr Lam.
Vitality Air sells bottled fresh air and oxygen across North America, to India and the Middle East. But China remains its biggest overseas market.
The company’s China representative, Harrison Wang, says their customers are mainly affluent Chinese women who buy for their families or give away as gifts. But he says senior homes and even high end night clubs have also stocked up on their product.
“In China fresh air is a luxury, something so precious,” says Mr Wang.
He says a number of distributors have contacted them to sell their products.
Explore. Dream. Discover. Breathe. pic.twitter.com/boAcLc8Qif
— Vitality Air (@vitalityair) September 1, 2015
Vitality Air’s biggest challenge is to keep up with demand because each bottle of fresh air is filled by hand.
“It’s very labour intensive but we also wanted to make it a very unique and fun product,” says co-founder Mr Lam.
“We may have bit off more than we can chew.”
The growing orders have been a pleasant surprise for him since his friends and family initially mocked the idea of selling something that most Canadians take for granted.
“My parents told me not to quit my day time job,” he says.
So far, Mr Lam has heeded this advice and still holds a bank job in Canada.
The smog in China is so bad that people are actually buying bottled air from Canada
While pollution levels are reaching record highs in China, a Canadian start-up is finding a way to make a profit. Vitality Air, a company that sells canned air and oxygen, is seeing a huge demand from users in China.
Produced by Christine Nguyen and Devan Joseph. Research by Drake Baer.
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