CEO Corner: Füm’s Braeden Pauls on a World Without Smoking & Vaping

With Füm, users take in food-safe, flavored air instead of inhaling addictive substances like nicotine or vapor

Quitting a bad habit cold turkey rarely works. This is especially true with addictive practices like smoking and vaping. 

Habit replacement  – swapping a harmful behavior out for a similar but non-harmful one – is typically a more effective way to get on the right track.

This is the idea behind Füm, a Canadian brand founded in 2018 that features flavored air in place of harmful substances like smoke, vapor or nicotine. With Füm, users take in food-safe air featuring flavors such as Crisp Mint, Sparkling Grapefruit and Raspberry Vanilla instead of inhaling addictive substances.

While Füm itself can’t make marketing claims that its products help people quit smoking and vaping, the company has quickly grown as customers around the country use flavored air to replace nicotine and vapor-containing substances. 

As wellness products continue to gain shelf space in major retailers, and as more people around the globe become educated on the harmful effects of smoking and vaping, Füm could be poised for a breakout. 

Athletech News spoke with Füm co-founder and CEO Braeden Pauls about his vision to create a product that can help one million people quit smoking and vaping, the emergence of the “flavored-air” category, and his goals for Füm as the brand scales.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Athletech News: Can you tell us a bit about your background and why you decided to co-found Füm?

Braeden Pauls: I studied psychology with the goal of becoming a psychologist, but my personal mission was to empower people to overcome barriers to becoming their optimal selves. I think the greatest tragedy in life for anybody is untapped potential. I’ve experienced it with friends, or different people in my life, where I saw that they had so much potential to achieve incredible things but they tripped themselves up with addictions. 

While I was in college, I met my co-founders for Füm. When we looked at the market, there were a lot of different use cases that we could have focused on as a company. But very early on, we got to see that there was potential to help people quit smoking and vaping. There are a billion smokers in the world; it’s the leading cause of preventable death. 

We thought we brought a really unique perspective since most of the things in the category for quitting smoking vaping were either pharmaceutical or nicotine-based. And some people were using vaping to quit smoking, but then getting addicted to vaping, and we’re starting to see the negative effects of vaping. People clearly enjoy having that hand-to-mouth companion throughout their day and enjoying a certain flavor – that’s become a ritual for a lot of people. We thought, ‘How can we satisfy that human desire without having the negatives of vaping or nicotine?’ That’s where we saw this massive opportunity. 

Braeden Pauls (credit: Füm)

ATN: What differentiates Füm from other products designed to help people replace the habit of smoking or vaping?

BP: Our key differentiators are that Füm is non-addictive, non-nicotine and non-vapor. This is something you can enjoy without having to worry.

For us, the threshold of how good the product has to be is a lot higher because we’re not addictive, we’re not hitting those dopamine centers with nicotine. So we’ve worked really, really hard to make something that’s functional and delivers great flavor, but also the whole product experience, including something that’s aesthetically pleasing that people want to use. If we’re non-addictive, we’ve got to be sexy.  That’s our approach.

ATN: Is Füm purely a product for people who are looking to quit smoking and vaping, or can it be used by others?

BP: Our number one priority is people who are smoking and vaping. But we also see that there’s a massive opportunity to be that product that people would go to rather than getting into smoking and vaping. 

We want to establish the ‘flavored-aircategory to where people say, ‘Hey, I might want to do something in this general category of smoking and vaping, but I don’t want those negative effects.’ If that can be Füm, that’s a big deal. 

credit: Füm

ATN: Is Füm the pioneer of the flavored-air category? How quickly is the category growing? 

BP: We’re definitely the pioneer. And right now we’re the leader in the category, but it’s growing. We’re seeing more and more companies wanting to build flavored-air products. I see this category becoming quite large in the future. 

If you look at the soft-drink market with sodas, for example, you have your Cokes and Pepsis that are full of sugar and caffeine. I think there’s a lot of people in the last 10 years that have realized, ‘I probably shouldn’t be drinking this all the time.’ We’ve seen the rise of the flavored-water category to be that alternative that people can enjoy without the negative effects (of soda). But for smoking and vaping, there isn’t an alternative category. So that’s where we see the flavored-air category going. 

credit: Füm

ATN: What has Füm’s growth been like since 2018?

BP: We’ve been growing quite quickly. Over the last three years, we’ve been basically tripling in size as a company every year. We don’t want to share too many numbers publicly at this point, but our run rate is at around $36 million a year. 

ATN: How is Füm working to continue driving growth?

BP: There’s been a lot of different changes at different stages. For example, right now, we’re diversifying our channels. We started out primarily as a Shopify-based brand. We’re now moving into Amazon and moving into retail channels. We’re having really good success in those channels. We’ve already sold in Urban Outfitters, and we’ve had a lot of interest from big retailers including 7-Eleven and Circle K. But right now, we’re mostly working with smaller stores, including a pilot in Austin, Texas. Everything is looking really good.

credit: Füm

ATN: How important is it to find independent research that could one day support the ability to make claims about Füm’s effectiveness in helping people quit smoking and vaping?

BP: It’s definitely a big focus for us. Because we have thousands of reviews with people saying, ‘Hey, this is effective for me in quitting smoking or quitting vaping.’ The anecdotal feedback is great, but being able to validate that through other means is important to us.

In our marketing, we currently talk about helping you kick bad habits and create good habits without directly naming the good habit or the bad habit. That’s our approach right now but we’re trying to figure out how we can work within the regulatory environment to be able to actually make those types of claims outright.

ATN: What are your key long-term goals for Füm?

BP: Our mission is to be able to help one million people quit smoking and vaping by 2026. We’ve got two more years until that goal, but right now, we’re on pace for it. We’re going to have to hit that 3x growth goal every year, which is aggressive, but I think we can do it.

In the longer term, we want to create the flavored-air category into something that’s as large as vaping. If we’re able to create a flavored-air category that exceeds the size of vaping, that’s going to displace a ton of people from both the vaping and smoking categories. That’s going to be a massive benefit to humanity in decreasing the amount of people dying needlessly from these products, as well as putting money back in people’s pockets and overall making the world better. 

The post CEO Corner: Füm’s Braeden Pauls on a World Without Smoking & Vaping appeared first on Athletech News.


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