California retailer promotes refillable propane cylinders to campers

September 17, 2015 By    

For years, there’s been a propane-related problem plaguing campsites across the United States: campers disposing 1-pound cylinders improperly.

Josh Simpson, marketing director for California-based Kamps Propane, says the problem has grown at California parks over the years. He estimates more than a million disposable propane cylinders get left behind at California campsites each year.

Kamps Propane acted on this issue in October 2014 by participating in a statewide campaign called Refuel Your Fun, promoting 1-pound refillable propane cylinders. The California-based retailer has promoted Little Kampers – 1-pound refillable propane cylinders – to customers over the past year.

Simpson says Kamps Propane partnered with Flame King to promote the 1-pound refillable cylinder, rebranding the product to give customers an easier name to remember.

“When customers see the phrase ‘1-pound refillable cylinder,’ they’ll get lost in the description,” Simpson says. “It’s hard to market that. We felt people might remember these better with a name like Little Kampers attached to it.”

Although a Little Kamper is priced at $11.99, it costs less than $2 to refill, Simpson says.

Flame King developed and soft-launched its 1-pound refillable cylinder about two years ago, and it’s not the only company in the United States offering such a product.

Frank Lane, Manchester Tank’s director of research and development, created his company’s 1-pound refillable propane cylinder in 2009, though he had the idea for it almost a decade earlier.

According to a press release, Lane had the idea to create a refillable propane cylinder because he was using disposable cylinders regularly on torches used for soldering water and refrigeration lines.

Since Tennessee-based Manchester Tank developed its 1-pound refillable propane cylinders, Lane says the company has seen some success with them among campers. He adds the manufacturer promoted its 1-pound refillable propane cylinders in a campaign at Yellowstone National Park this past year.

“I think the only issue the industry faces is that there’s a lot of convenience people see with the disposable cylinders,” Lane says. “Those can be picked up just about anywhere, which is tough for us. Yet we have a good product here in the refillables, but it’s just going to take a while to train customers to use the refillables.”

Sam Newman, Flame King’s CEO, adds there are benefits for propane retailers who choose to sell and distribute refillable propane cylinders, explaining it’s a simple way to get additional business from around the community. He says it also aligns retailers who choose to sell the cylinders as environmentally friendly.

“When you sell 1-pound refillable tanks, there’s also the benefit of offering customers other products that run on propane, like barbecue grills,” Newman says.

“You can also offer deals with refillables – like if a customer buys a propane grill from you, offer them a number of refills for free. Through this, you can train people to come to you for propane.”

Lane says the landscaping industry is another area in which retailers can market 1-pound refillable cylinders.

Kamps Propane received many new customers through promoting Little Kampers at its stores and near campsites in California, Simpson says.

“It was a low cost and easy way to create relationships in our community,” he says. “It’s not expensive, and it’s not complicated. It offers attractive benefits to consumers everywhere, which is an innovation we should all be interested in.”

Megan Smalley

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of LP Gas magazine. Contact her at msmalley@northcoastmedia.net or 216-363-7930.

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