Bottled Air More Than Novelty Item As Company Profits From China’s Woes

Bottled air in the 1987 movie Spaceballs was such a precious item, it was sold in aluminum cans and kept in desk drawers.

Turns out the movie was only slightly ahead of its time as a Canadian company is now selling bottled air to consumers, Geek reported this week.

While bottled air company Vitality Air began as a joke, it’s turned into a viable business with the demand expanding exponentially overnight, Fortune reported. Co-founded in 2014 by Moses Lam and Troy Paquette, Vitality Air first sold plastic bags of the natural resource for $0.99.

Now with back orders outpacing supply, the company commands up to $32 for specially-designed aluminum containers of their bottled air. A 3 liter canister contains enough bottled air for 80 breaths, with the cost for the item set at $14. While buying larger containers reduces the per-liter price, it’s still a product reserved for those with disposal income.

The reason for the demand growing so fast is the worsening air conditions in China. The New York Times described the conditions in China, making the market for bottled air grow so rapidly. “You saw the pictures from China,” writer Timothy Egan began, describing the imagery as “masked residents trying to cope with the carbon-thick soup of the world’s latest industrial revolution.”

Bottled Air Chinese Women in China wearing mask to avoid the smog and poor air quality. [Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]Clean air has become such a luxury that a restaurant in Shanghai is charging customers a higher price to sit in rooms with a breathable atmosphere. “Many may be forced to leave, climate refugees, fleeing to stay alive,” Egan added.

The company recently sent 500 units of their bottled air products to China. The company reported that units sold almost immediately because Beijing raised its smog alert from orange to red, meaning conditions are worsening.

In production now is 4,000 units, but building their inventory takes time as each container is hand-filled “through clean compression, locking in the pure air without any contamination,” their website stated.

Their entire current inventory is almost entirely sold before it leaves the facility, Paquette said. “We’re doing our best to keep up.” Intended originally as a novelty item, the bottled air is now being gobbled up for those seeking a Chinese respiratory refuge from smog.

While bottled air may provide a temporary respite from the air quality conditions in China, it is not a viable solution, Time wrote. The Chinese government is seeking to create a filtration system to reduce the pollutants in the air instead of trying to import air from another location.

Bottled Air China The before and after images of Beijing, China on December 10, 2015. The photo highlights the Chinese’s concerns over air quality and why the bottled air business has grown. [Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]Selling bottled air isn’t a new novelty item, meaning Vitality Air may have competition for their business in the future, the National Post reported. Iceland tourist shops sell canisters of “fresh mountain air” to its visitors. Even before making profits off of an invisible substance, the Canadian Western Natural Gas company handed out cans of “Alberta Fresh Air” as a marketing campaign during the 1960s.

The controversy surrounding the bottled air has even garnered comments from the Canadian Respiratory Research Network. The organization’s director – Shawn Aaron – argued there is no health benefits for the bottled substance.

“They’re not really shipping anything that could be expected to make people feel better or improve their performance beyond a placebo effect. But if China wants to pay Canadians to send them air, do we want to discourage that? You can’t overdose on air.”

Spaceballs isn’t the only story that’s featured air quality at its core. The Dr. Seuss book The Lorax was turned into a movie in 2012, featuring an industrialist who benefits from breathable air.

What do you think about selling bottled air as a new business? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Image via Vitality Air website]