Two entrepreneurs are capitalizing on air pollution problems abroad by selling people bottled fresh air from the Canadian Rockies.
"Essentially we're selling air," Troy Paquette, one of Vitality Air's Canadian co-founders, told CBC's The Current. "Clean, beautiful, fresh Banff mountain air."
The idea came to Paquette and co-founder Moses Lam as a bit of a joke. They chatted to some people who lived abroad in regions with lots of air pollution. Paquette and Lam joked about packaging some fresh Canadian air and shipping it around the world so people could experience it.
They put up their first product — Banff air in a taped up Ziploc bag — on eBay. It sold for 99 cents.
They tried it again, and, this time, a small bidding war started. The second bag sold for $168 US.
Paquette and Lam decided to try and turn it into a legitimate business.
Now, canisters of air from Banff and Lake Louise, sell from $15 to $46, depending on the size.
Some of the canisters are sold to Canadians, but interest has also come from China, Iran, Afghanistan and other places abroad, Paquette said.
Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for air pollution this week. The forecast for the government's air quality index was projected to reach what the government considers heavily polluted levels for three days.
Paquette believes the country's air pollution contributes to the spike the company sees in interest from China.
"The air is just so bad that people just want it now," Paquette says. "They don't want one can."
The men, who both have day jobs outside the Edmonton-based company, have big plans. The company is in talks with distributors in China, as well as in other countries, who want to stock the product in stores.
"It's something we never expected in our wildest dreams," Paquette said.