Derry E-cig firm lands a royal seal of approval
Co Londonderry firm Nicobrand, which makes nicotine products for e-cigarettes, has won the Queen's Award for Excellence for its growing international trade.
The Coleraine company won the royal seal of approval after overseas sales growth rocketed from £200,000 to £1.85m from 2011 to 2013.
Nicobrand, which was bought over by Actavis in 1998, employs 25 people in developing products for the booming e-cigarette industry, which has help drive the firm's success.
The company exports to the USA, France, Italy, Poland and Denmark, and more recently to Korea, Greece and Romania.
Nicobrand was bought over in 1990 by Actavis - a global pharmaceutical firm which later acquired Warner Chilcott.
The Coleraine firm was set up in the town by Rex Humphreys.
The company actually began its life more than 100 years ago in Virginia in the US, extracting nicotine for use in the insecticide and pesticide industry. After 20 years in business, its founder Horace Villiers-Stewart relocated to Northern Ireland to make use of waste tobacco from Gallaher's.
The firm's growth has followed the trajectory of the industry it serves - that of e-cigarettes and 'vaping' - which has taken off around the world, though controversy remains over the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes.
Mark McQuillan, managing director of Nicobrand, said an EU directive coming into force next year will help regulate the system and introduce more stringent safety standards.
"There's a lot of debate raging right now about the safety issue," he said.
He said his company had been audited by both the US and UK authorities, whose approvals "don't come lightly".
"In terms of the industry we see a great potential benefit from e-cigarettes for the purposes of public health," he said.
"There is regulation pending, in the EU TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) which comes into force in 2016 which will offer further clarity."
The directive he referred to provides legislation concerning safety and quality requirements, including rules on packaging and labelling.
The company has won the Queen's Award for the second time after its first win in 20014.
Mr McQuillan said: "We are a global leader in the nicotine business and are very proud of that fact that we manufacture these high quality nicotine products at our facility here in Coleraine."