The smoke shop and cannabis industries have grown tremendously over the last decade. The adult products industry has followed a similar vein (no pun intended), emerging from a shadowy past, gaining public acceptance, and many instances, becoming a welcomed addition to the mainstream health and wellness category.
“There was a time when, even being in the industry, I had a hard time going into some of the adult stores. It was all about men and wasn’t at all female friendly,” says Lisa Hanna, President of Sales for Maia Toys, a recognized leader in the adult accessories and pleasure products market. “I truly believe that 50 Shades of Grey, a book that dealt not only with bondage, but moreover, trust, communication, and love, impacted the industry in a very positive way. Now you’ve got soccer moms openly shopping for adult toys not only for themselves, but their husbands, partners, and girlfriends.”
Established in Los Angeles in 2010, Maia Toys has become a household name for their innovative and quality selection of sexual wellness products. When Hanna arrived in 2017, with 15 years of pleasure industry experience working with manufacturers and distributors, she recognized Maia’s commitment to quality products but set out to rebrand designs and packaging that were lumped in with novelty products commonly stuffed into plastic bags and sold as is.
“The 50 Shades phenomenon changed consumer feelings towards adult products and the way retailers presented them. Consumers were walking into boutiques instead of dirty bookstores, so the packaging needed to reflect that,” Hanna says.
In the old days, if a customer wanted to inspect a product, they almost had to rip the bottom of the packaging to get at it, then the clerk would fight to get the product back into the packaging, and by that point the packaging was destroyed. Hanna’s redesign incorporated magnetic closure boxes that allow customers easy access to the product. The packaging opens like a book with information on the flap and a clear window showing off what’s inside. Maia even includes testers with orders, so that retailers can keep specific products on display to be seen, touched and felt.
“I’d almost say our approach is ‘Apple-like’ with clean white packaging that can go into any kind of retail location,” Hanna says, adding that the aim is high end appeal at a reasonable price.
Another evolution in product development has been the move from needing to keep standard batteries on hand to many toys being USB rechargeable. Maia is now working on convenient wireless charging options that have become commonplace for mobile devices. Maia has expanded their catalog to include 87 SKUs — including bullets, vibrators, wands, dongs and dildos, anal toys and prostate massagers, erection enhancers, and masterbators, with more being introduced on a regular basis. Originally, products were geared towards women and now there’s something for every gender, demographic and sexual fetish. Maia even developed a rabbit-style vibrator for people with limited mobility, such as arthritic seniors and those with carpal tunnel, that fits comfortably in the palm of the hand, and because of the placement of the motors, vibrations don’t aggravate potentially painful wrist joints.
Our products are simple in their design and function, and body safe being made with medical-grade silicone,” Hanna says, adding that all Maia products comply with California’s prop 65, known as the Safe Drinking Water and Non Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, to ensure they are free of harmful chemicals and heavy metals. Maia products, being made from 100 percent medical-grade silicone, are hypoallergenic, latex-free, and nonporous, so they resist bacterial growth.
Double the Pleasure
A recent survey found that some 65 percent of female consumers own some kind of sex toy. When asked about the reasons for using pleasure products, the most common responses were that they are for fun or a way to revitalize their sex lives. Marijuana users have similar sentiments to why the partake and often reported motivations including enjoyment, experimentation, and social enhancement.
Seeing the commonalities between the two communities, Mia recently launched a 420 collection of cannabis themed pleasure products.
The idea to integrate adult toys with the cannabis industry came about almost as a joke. Hanna, doesn’t smoke, but she asked her son, Zach Smith, who works with her in sales and marketing, what he thought about putting some pot leaf designs on a bullet. They both laughed, but Smith, a longtime cannabis user, figured it was worth a shot. Maia’s weren’t the first cannabis-themed toys but stood apart with designs embedded into the silicone rather than printed on the surface making it completely body-safe.
“I originally thought it was too gimmicky. But we came up with some designs that we really liked and thought the cannabis industry would too,” Smith says. “We started with two simple vibrating bullets and evolved our 420 line into products that truly serve a sexual purpose.”
The Maui rabbit style vibrator, for example, features a clitoral stimulator in the shape of a wide cannabis leaf, which offers more contact with a woman’s most sensitive area. The Marlie wand’s silicone head is peppered with tiny cannabis leaves that add texture to clitoral stimulation. An anal play kit includes butt plugs, dubbed Doobies, which have a leaf shaped base to prevent the toy from going in too far. Maia’s most popular addition is the Jessi 420, a 10- function mini bullet vibrator in emerald green with hemp leaf patterns.
Maia officially launched their 420 line at one of the big cannabis industry trade shows. The response was inspiringly positive, but a few buyers questioned the validity of sex toys in a smoke shop environment. Smith recalls some confusion about whether you could smoke out the vibrators.
Those that have objections, Smith says, don’t realize how comfortable the general population is with sex, so there’s a need to educate their staff to be as comfortable selling adult products as they are with pipes.
“Most everybody has sex, and now people are consuming cannabis in different ways, so if a retailer is catering to counterculture people, there’s no reason why an adult toy should be out of place,” Smith says. “It’s a new avenue of revenue that doesn’t compete with the rest of the stuff in a smoke shop.”
“Everybody’s looking to broaden their horizons and make more money in their stores. Adult products, like liquor and cigarettes, are recession proof. When people stay home, like they did during the pandemic, our business booms,” Hanna adds. “[Adult products] aren’t dirty or disgusting. To me, they’re nothing more than just another SKU.”