Joke cans of Canadian Rocky Mountain air snapped up in smoggy China

Joke Cans of air

It started as a joke, but Vitality Air seems to have tapped into something in parts of the world where the pollution is so bad you don’t breathe the air so much as chew it.
The year-old Edmonton-based startup is busy trying to fulfill growing demand for its canned Rocky Mountain air.
“I’m lost for words because the last few days have just gone completely crazy,” Vitality co-founder Troy Paquette told Yahoo Canada.
It may have something to do with record levels of smog in some of China’s big cities. Going into the recent climate change conference in Paris, for instance, Beijing recorded an air quality index of more than 500, officially off the chart.
Vitality’s novelty product is apparently taken seriously by at least some in China, where people must routinely wear surgical masks to block at least some of the toxic soup they breathe.
“It’s been a pretty wild ride for us as we only started to market the product a month and a half ago,” Harrison Wang, Vitality’s China representative, told  Mail Online this week.
“We got the website up and running, then put Vitality Air on Taobao – a Chinese website similar to eBay for online shopping – and we sold out almost instantly.”
Wang said he now has people lining up to become Vitality Air distributors.
This all began in 2014 when Paquette, a real estate agent, and his friend Moses Lam, a mortgage broker at one of Canada’s big chartered banks, sold a sealed food baggie of mountain air collected in Banff National Park online for 99 cents.
“We were just having fun with it,” Paquette said. “It started with some bagged air on eBay and we thought, hey let’s try it in some cans and try and sell it as a bit of a novelty.”
Cans of air sold in Banff stores initially
The duo began selling it through stores in Banff, then sent some to China, where the initial shipment of 500 containers sold out quickly. A fresh batch of 700 will be headed there.
“The thing has just gone completely insane,” said Paquette.
Vitality’s products range from $15 for three litres of compressed air from Lake Louise, west of Banff up to $46 for two 10-litre containers of “premium air.” Paquette said the most popular buy is the 7.7-litre bottle of Banff air. The 7.7-litre containers come with a built-in breathing mask.
“So when you take the cap off, you flip it over and attach it to the nozzle and it goes up against your face,” he said. “You just basically spray it and breathe.”
Smaller containers have the familiar aerosol nozzle that you hold up to your mouth, spray and inhale.
Oxygen bars began springing up in the 1990s, offering city-dwellers a refreshing boost of clean O2 sometimes enhanced with additives such as mint.
Paquette said Facebook friends pointed out Vitality’s products reminded them of the movie “The Lorax,” based on the Dr. Seuss story, where one character in the walled city surrounded by a polluted, lifeless wasteland sells bottled oxygen to residents.
“When we first started, believe it or not, we hadn’t even seen the movie Lorax,” he said.
Paquette makes trips to Rockies to collect fresh air
Paquette said he personally travels to the mountains to collect and compress the air, which is then transferred to smaller bottles.
“It’s completely safe,” he said. “There’s no chemicals in it. It’s air, right? We use pressure as opposed to chemicals like you get from a keyboard duster.”
While Vitality pitches its air as a hangover cure and après-sports booster, Paquette stresses he and Lam are not making any medical claims for their product. But with greater visibility, he admitted “trolls” have challenged the promotional material on their web site.
“We’re in the process of clarifying a few of the details there,” said Paquette. “Maybe the web site probably needs to be tweaked a bit.
“That’s not our intent to claim [it’s] a health device in any way, shape or form. So maybe the wording needs to be a little softer.”
Besides China, Vitality has sold cans of air in India and Dubai, said Paquette, but lately it’s promoting the product in Canada and the U.S. as Christmas stocking stuffers.

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