Austrian vaping company VON ERL. has partnered with Fontem Ventures to boost its distribution strength. Fontem is a subsidiary of Imperial Brands, which is the parent company of Imperial Tobacco, the fourth largest international tobacco company.
VON ERL. is the maker of the well-known My. VON ERL., a popular pod system, sold primarily online and through vape shops. According to the company, they’re now available in more than 3,000 outlets in 12 countries.
An alliance with Fontem will give VON ERL. the distribution power of a tobacco company, and allow their products to be seen by substantially more smokers in many more points of sale. This is likely to become a common strategy for mid- and large-sized e-cigarette companies. Vapor Beast was acquired last year by “little tobacco” company Turning Point Brands.
Fontem Ventures makes Imperial’s non-tobacco nicotine products, and is best known for the Blu e-cig brand, which it acquired when Reynolds American International (RAI — better known as RJ Reynolds) bought rival Lorillard. Reynolds and Lorillard were forced to divest themselves of some brands (which also included Winston, Kool and Salem cigarettes) by the Federal Trade Commission.
One of Fontem’s purposes when the subsidiary was created was “to acquire, manage, operate, encumber and dispose of property, including patents and other intellectual property rights.” Fontem owns many e-cigarette patents, including Hon Lik’s original Ruyan patent. In fact, along with their 2013 purchase of the Hon Lik/Dragonite patents, Hon himself came to work for Fontem. He still does.
Fontem Ventures has been responsible for good science on vapor products, including funding some studies that were done by independent researchers. The company also created an astroturf advocacy site that recruited vapers through social media to contribute their stories, while hiding its origin. That site shut down quickly after being exposed as a non-grassroots effort.