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Finished Goods, Standout Vapes, All-In-Ones, And Clog Prevention

“One of the reasons I love the cannabis industry is how quickly it moves. … There are a few notable changes across hardware and packaging.”

Those who walked the floor of the New England Cannabis Convention in Boston earlier this year may have stumbled into the impressive candy store-like setup by the folks at Finished Goods. The Los Angeles-based vape hardware supplier went big on the trade show floor, and has a comparable standout vibe in the cannabis market.

With the company’s X Mini pocket vape among the kickass newfangled designs augmenting this growing section of dispensary menus, we asked Finished Goods Founder Luke Christiano about clog prevention, trends, best practices, and more … 

You had one of the most head-turning booths at NECANN Boston this year. What was the concept and how did you go about executing it? 

Thank you for the compliment. We’ve been in the industry for almost seven years and this was our first booth. Every vape and packaging booth looks the same. Since our clients can’t make candy-themed brands, and we didn’t want to encroach on any of our customers’ branding, we thought a classic candy store-themed booth was a fun way to showcase what we can do. We’ll be adding to it and making some changes. We doubled the size for MJBizCon this year.

Tell us about the larger company, Finished Goods. I know companies like yours can’t always say everyone you work with but give us an idea of the markets you’re in and the goods you supply. 

Finished Goods’ overall goal is to bridge the gap between cannabis brands’ needs and overseas manufacturers’ limitations. Our main product category is vape hardware. We also make millions of paper packages, glass jars, luer lock syringes, plastic and sustainable material jars and tubes, and mylar bags. We’ve sold over one hundred million products into the [US and Canada] recreational and medicinal cannabis markets.

What kind of prehistoric vapes were you making at the beginning? 

My cofounder, Kyle Heffner, and I have been working in this sector of the cannabis industry together for almost seven years, and all the vapes we’ve sold have been low lead brass—under the required PPM—or stainless steel with ceramic atomizers. We’ve made some incredible advancements in the last few years. It takes a while to test vapes because the entire tank must be consumed to understand how one performs. Taking one or two hits doesn’t cut it. Machines can’t give you an accurate understanding of taste or temperature, and they have trouble mimicking real life scenarios like leaving a vape in a hot car. We have a big announcement coming in the next couple months about new technology we’ve created, specifically around individual atomizers we designed for rosin, HTE, and distillate.

One of the reasons I love the cannabis industry is how quickly it moves. If you step back and look at how it’s changed over the last five years, it’s pretty dramatic. There are a few notable changes across hardware and packaging.

Flower, vapes, prerolls, etc. all used to be in glass, tins, and boxes until about three years ago. About three years ago, everything switched to mylar bags. Now it looks like things are heading back in the other direction, since not everyone wants to look the same on the shelf.

The vape space has changed a lot, too. During COVID, all-in-ones (AIOs) totally died. Right when social distancing ended and everything opened up, disposable sales skyrocketed. Now there’s a flood of different disposables on the market, and a lot of them look good but don’t perform well.

Another big development is the introduction of rosin and HTE live resin mixtures. Making vapes that don’t clog was a little easier when everyone was using distillate with botanically derived terpenes. Today, there are different types of oil on the market, so brands and vape hardware manufacturers have to pay a lot more attention to how vapes perform before bringing them to market.

It’s hard to answer a single game changing trend because I feel like there’s a new one every month!

What would you say your flagship product is and why do consumers tell you they like it? 

We launched the X MINI in September last year, and it became our fastest selling product ever. We’ve been selling traditional 510 thread cartridges for years, so we took everything we learned from those cartridges and put it into an AIO. We offer three different ceramic atomizers in the X MINI which can be used interchangeably to actually prevent clogging. It all depends on the oil viscosity. We also have three different types of air flow on the X MINI that our customers can choose from at the manufacturing level. There’s a traditional cannabis vape airflow that’s restricted, a nicotine pen style air flow, and a middle option that’s right in between. I’m pretty sure we’re the only vape company that offers prefabricated airflow options on the same device.

We just launched the XL which is a dual tank version of the X MINI. It’s great if you want to offer two fresh tanks of rosin or distillate. If you really want to get technical, you can put two different oils in the XL and switch between each side or hit both sides at once.

We’re launching the MAGNUM this summer, which fits up to 4g of oil. What makes it unique is that you can actually smoke 4g of oil out of it without it clogging. I haven’t seen a pen capable of that before, so it should be a game changer for markets like Colorado that allow large capacity AIOs.

From a manufacturing standpoint, in words that the average cannabis consumer can understand, what are some tricks of the trade when it comes to preventing products from clogging or leaking? And how much of a role does the hardware supplier play in that compared to the product manufacturer?

Leaks are easy—if your carts or AIOs are leaking, just decrease the size of the oil hole. Preventing clogs is the million dollar question. Every vape company claims they’ve solved it, but I haven’t seen a successful one-size-fits-all solution.

It takes two to tango to prevent clogs. The vape distributor has to understand the customers’ oil and has to know a lot about their atomizers. The customer has to properly test the manufacturer’s recommendations. Our practice is to send two recommendations of internal specifications for our hardware, so the customer can test their oil with both, and we can determine which one works best. From that point forward, the end consumer won’t have any issues with their hardware. 

There isn’t a single AIO or cart on the market that works for all types of viscosity oils. Anyone who says this is just hoping for the best. All vape companies talk about oil hole size and resistance—2mm oil hole and 1.4ohm is the standard. But very few talk about the atomizer. … 

Atomizers make a huge difference in how a pen smokes and whether or not it clogs, but once you introduce two or three different atomizers on the same unit with the same oil hole and same resistance, it can be confusing for sales reps trying to explain it to customers. It also makes local stock extremely hard to manage. Our sales team have become experts in making these recommendations and understanding which atomizers to recommend based on the customer’s oil. Some of our clients are operating at a .0008% failure rate. 

Now let’s talk about every vape manufacturer’s favorite two words for a minute: heavy metals. How much of a problem are heavy metals in vapes industry wide, and what does your company do to keep products safe and tested?

Heavy metals are easily solvable. Think about high-grade cookware. It’s all made out of 316 L grade stainless steel. Restaurants use the same pan for years, and they’re not contaminating your food with heavy metals. If the vape manufacturer uses a stainless steel center post, there’s no chance of contamination. The issue is that customers want inexpensive vapes and stainless steel is expensive. The alternative is low lead brass. Brass cartridges use copper as the solder material. Copper has varying degrees of lead and other contaminants in it. If the copper and electroplating is high quality, you won’t see any contaminants in the heavy metal test reports. All our disposables are made with 316L stainless steel. We offer both low lead brass and stainless steel 510 thread cartridges.

What should people look out for in a vape cartridge—maybe taste or smell wise?—that may signal that something isn’t quite right with a product?

It depends on what you’re looking for. With regard to heavy metals, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, and many other states require heavy metal testing—so if you’re buying your vapes in those markets from a licensed dispensary, you’re probably safe. If you want to know if your vape uses stainless steel, the center post should slope like the cartridge on the right (see inset).

Vape performance is a little harder to predict by looking at the cartridge. I would recommend opening the vape in the dispensary parking lot to check for a leak. You can also suck on it without a battery to make sure it’s not clogged right out of the package. You’ll have to smoke about 20% of the tank to find out if it clogs after use.

How much does a company like yours have to worry about illicit market knockoffs? 

We don’t worry about it at all. We’ve been building a big team in Shenzhen over the years. All our tech stays in house. It’s a little tougher though as an end consumer. Just make sure there’s tax on the receipt and you’re probably good to go.

AIOs are definitely going to be a huge driver for sales in 2024. We’re seeing a lot less mylar bags right now for all types of products, and we’re usually a few months ahead of the curve on packaging. Now that every shelf in the dispensaries has bags on it, brands are pivoting back to more eye-catching, but inexpensive, paper packaging.

It’s tough to say what else is coming. Although we try to predict trends in the market, we mostly just listen to our customers and quickly build products that meet their needs before they miss the next trend.