The primary industries using Boveda’s patented technology are tobacco, wooden musical instruments, and cannabis/hemp.
Boveda’s primary focus, however, is shifting to the cannabis/hemp industry where the company believes it has the opportunity to be included in every storage container and retail package worldwide.
Since cannabis and hemp are sold by weight, the industry uses Boveda products to maximize the economic value of the cured flower by raising the moisture-content to the maximum safe level while keeping the water activity below the point of mold
and microbial growth.
In addition to increasing the economic value of cannabis and hemp, Boveda also reduces the effects of oxidation on cured flower by creating a monolayer coating of water molecules that act as a protective shield from oxygen, helping prevent the evaporation of terpenes and cannabinoids. Boveda is a unique and natural way to maintain long-term quality. Company CEO Sean Knutsen and vice-president of sales Tim Swail took time to answer our questions.
What did you and your partners do before starting Boveda?
Tim Swail — sales in the trade show exhibit manufacturing industry.
Sean Knutsen — sales in the telecom industry with a focus on wireless communications for health care.
How did you get into this industry?
It started with our passion for premium cigars and the void that existed for properly storing cigars to keep them in peak condition. All the products and technologies that existed prior to Boveda were “one-way” devices. Meaning, they could either add moisture to the air (humidifiers) or they could remove moisture (desiccants), but they could not do both.
Boveda is different. We defined and built an entirely new category of active packaging that we called “2-way humidity control.” Boveda was the world’s first 2-way humidity control that could add or remove moisture, as needed, to reach an ideal equilibrium relative humidity.
Although the premium cigar industry was the first industry we introduced our product into, we recognized the need for many other industries and applications, including cannabis and hemp.
Read also: The Art of Curing Your Cannabis Crop
It was common for us in the early 2000s to receive calls from people that wanted to maintain the ideal moisture in their medical “herbs.” One of the reasons for the intense interest was because cannabis and hemp are sold by weight and moisture represents a significant portion of that weight. Those involved in the business of herbal medicine (i.e. cannabis/hemp) were losing significant money due to the evaporation of moisture.
The dilemma that the industry faced was that the risk of adding moisture increases the potential for mold and microbial growth. Therefore, to avoid this risk, many companies would finish their cure, store, package, then sell their cannabis in a state that’s unfavorably dry, even though they sacrifice a portion of the economic value of their flower.
When those in the industry saw Boveda, they recognized it as the solution to their problem. So, in 2007 we signed our first distribution agreement with a company in California to take Boveda to the legal dispensaries in the state.
When and where did the company begin?
Product development started in late 1995. The company incorporated in 1997 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our first office was in Sean’s kitchen. In addition to the kitchen, we had an office in the living room, dining room, spare bedroom, plus a vacant room in the basement, all connected to a local network running ACT! contact management software and a super-basic, multi-line phone system so our team of sales reps could ‘dial-for-dollars’ to the one to two thousand smoke shops across the nation.
How did Boveda gain market share and recognition?
Like most startups, the early years were tough. When you sell a product for just a few bucks it takes a lot of volume and a lot of repeat business to make a profit. We were destined, however, to change the way moisture-sensitive products were stored and packaged, starting with the premium cigar industry. It just took more time than we thought. And we weren’t about to give up until we found success.
We had another problem: we only had one product (The Humidor Bag) and it was over-engineered. The Humidor Bag was an all-inclusive storage bag with our 2-way humidity control technology on the inside to keep cigars in perfect condition. The bag was engineered so water vapor couldn’t escape, which made our Boveda pouches (branded Humidipak at the time) last for years instead of months. Twenty-two years later, we still have some of those samples as memorabilia, and they still have plenty of life left. When you have a consumable product, that’s not a good model for making money — or for staying in business.
So, when our team of four or five salespeople would open up a dozen accounts in a day, we were expecting the reorders to come in every month. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen.
Cigar connoisseurs like romance and nostalgia. The Humidor Bag, unfortunately, isn’t a romantic or nostalgic product. Functional, yes. Romantic or nostalgic? No. For over a hundred years, cigars have been stored and aged in exquisite wooden humidors —
and that’s what consumers prefer.
After plenty of research and development, by 2004, we were ready to introduce Boveda as the world’s first 2-way humidity control for wooden desktop humidors. It was the Boveda product for desktop humidors that turned things around for us.
All other products on the market were what we refer to as one-way devices. Meaning, they can only add moisture (called “humidifiers”) or remove moisture (called “desiccants”), but they couldn’t do both (2-way humidity control). Boveda was the world’s first 2-way humidity control. In other words, we had the first product that could add and/or remove moisture vapor from the headspace of any package or container — as needed — to create the perfect moisture environment for the product it’s stored with.
Once the market understood this difference and experienced it, momentum started to accelerate.
Has your company moved or expanded since the beginning?
Since first introducing our technology to the premium cigar market, we have since introduced it to other markets, including for wooden musical instruments and 12 years ago, in 2007, we introduced Boveda to the cannabis industry in California. From a growth perspective, we’ve been growing at a steady pace for the past 16 years. Our compounding growth over that time has been a consistent 30 per cent, year-over-year.
What is your current product line?
For the cannabis industry, we manufacture a variety of Boveda sizes to satisfy the complete range of storage containers and retail packaging. We have found that cannabis is best when stored in an environment between 55% and 65% relative humidity (RH). To satisfy this requirement, we have a Boveda B58 (58% relative humidity) and a B62 (62% relative humidity).
After harvest and once the drying process has finished, it’s time to reintroduce moisture to the dried flower. This is where Boveda comes in. Doing so is absolutely essential to maintain healthy trichomes and preserve the full potency of terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids.
When the trichomes are exposed to oxygen, terpenes start to volatilize and cannabinoids, such as THC, start to oxidize and convert to other compounds. Boveda is a pure and natural way to protect the trichomes from the harmful effects of oxygen by creating the perfect moisture equilibrium between 58% and 62% RH. By creating equilibrium at this level, a monolayer of water molecules is formed around the trichomes that act as a protective shield against oxygen. Boveda should be everywhere flower is present in order to stop this inevitable degradation process.
Where do you distribute?
More than 55 countries — worldwide.
How many people now work at the company?
45 people at this time.
What have you learned about starting and growing a company?
Building a successful company isn’t an overnight endeavor, to say the least. It takes consistent discipline over a long period of time. It takes a team of people that are humble and that view us as one team with one score, not as individuals with our own independent agendas. Building a company and brand isn’t easy — challenges will always be there — so to navigate those challenges also requires a team that never gives up.
What makes your employees so awesome? How does your team bond?
We are very deliberate in our hiring process and take extra steps in the evaluation process for new hires — probably over and above what most companies would normally do. We go to great lengths to make sure we are hiring not just high-performing, talented people, but the best people that will fit our values and culture. First and foremost, it’s the people that make a company great.
What makes our employees so awesome? I think part of what makes them awesome is the fact that they’re fully committed to our purpose as a company, which is to maximize the enjoyment people get from their passions. Boveda is not the star of the show. Instead, Boveda is the supporting cast that makes the star (cannabis) better. We embrace that idea and work hard to be the best company in the world at what we do. When you have a team of people that embrace this purpose, their work becomes more passionate and meaningful. When we’re passionate about our work, we can have more fun in the process.
Having fun and enjoying each other as employees is an important aspect of a company’s culture. Our team loves to hang out together. One of the trends at Boveda is people staying late on the back patio of the office to wind down over fine cigars, wine, and other adult beverages. The team naturally orchestrates various events and gatherings that foster camaraderie.
Does your company participate in community service?
Boveda supports local and international programs by way of volunteer work and financial support. Our team members meet regularly to evaluate recipients of this time and money. Boveda’s giving focuses upon adults and children at critical crossroads in their lives. As a company we strive to support lesser known organizations where donations will be the most impactful. We also seek to find non-profit organizations that support marginalized individuals that might otherwise get overlooked by more traditional support organizations.