Dec 15th, 2015
by: CNBC - Kalyeena Makortoff
Canada may be struggling with low oil prices, but China's latest environmental crisis is proving to be a lucrative opportunity for another of its natural resources — Rocky Mountain air.
Alberta-based Vitality Air has been cashing in on Beijing's worsening air quality problems, selling aluminum cans of "fresh clean air and oxygen" from the picturesque Rocky Mountains for around $10 to $20 each.
Vitality Air's China representative Harrison Wang said told MailOnline that they sold out almost instantly after marketing the product on China's e-commerce website Taobao. They'll be sending another 700 bottles to China in the coming weeks, topping their first 500-bottle shipment.
"We have sold everything, and we now have a bunch of customers and people wanting to be our distributors," Harrison said.
It comes as Beijing grapples with high levels of air pollution, having issued its first red alert for smog last week which saw schools, factories and construction sites closed and car limits enforced.
And the company wasn't shy about capitalizing on the crisis on Twitter shortly after the alert was issued.
Not a joke
Founders Moses Lam and Troy Paquette admitted to Canadian media that the project first started as a joke, selling their first sealable food bag of air for 99 cents on eBay. The then sold a second bag that raked in $168 Canadian dollars ($122).
They launched Vitality Air shortly afterward.
But for those who are still laughing at the idea of selling air that usually comes for free, the website reminds us that bottled water also used to be a punchline
"The truth is we've begun to appreciate the clean, pure and refreshing taste of quality water," the website reads. "Air is going the same way."
"Just like bottled water, premium air is a growing industry because people are noticing the difference."
Vitality Air says the company fills massive cans of compressed air from the Rocky Mountains around Banff and Lake Louise before dispensing it into retail canisters that are then shipped worldwide.
Bryan Roberts, SVP and knowledge officer at Kantar Retail, said this type of business isn't without precedent given the growth of so-called oxygen bars.
"Clearly, the issue of clean air is incredibly important in countries or cities afflicted by severe pollution, so it is no great surprise to see Vitality Air selling well in the Chinese market," Roberts explained.
"Regardless of the efficacy of the product as a solution, one can only admire entrepreneurs that have created a high growth business on this need, or perceived need," he added.