Inside The Wet, Slippery, Booming Business Of Lube
At a 70,000 square-foot, state-of-the art manufacturing facility six miles from the Las Vegas Strip, it’s all lube, all the time. There are vats of it and shelves stacked almost to the ceiling with it. The company’s chemist develops and tests new formulas and flavors in an in-house lab where she also performs daily quality checks. Down the hall is the production floor, a large, controlled environment with rows of impressive-looking manufacturing equipment: giant stainless-steel funnels, conveyor belts and a fancy labeler that rotates and affixes labels to bottles. A dozen employees wearing hairnets, smocks and gloves oversee the production process. In the shipping area are boxes filled with finished product: water-based lube, silicone lube, organic lube, strawberry flavored lube, hemp lube and more.
It’s a veritable Lube-A-Paloolza, the Willy Wonka of lube factories minus the Everlasting Gobstoppers, Oompa Loompas and chocolate-obsessed kids.
This is the headquarters of Wet International, an FDA certified personal lubricant company that produces upwards of 200,000 gallons of the slick, slippery liquid each year. That’s enough lube to fill more than 1.5 million Starbucks Venti coffee cups. It’s also enough to fuel countless steamy nights.
The business of lube is booming. Market research suggests that the global market for personal lubricants is expected to grow by close to 7% by 2025, with sales reaching upwards of $1.5 billion. Industry growth is being driven by a number of factors, including more open conversations about sex, the increasing popularity of sex toys and adult goods and the ease of shopping for these items online.
Wet was founded in 1989 by Michael Trigg, who felt the quality of personal lubricants on the market at the time was lacking. There was K-Y, Probe and a few others, but not much else to choose from. Wooed by Nevada’s business-friendly tax incentives and Las Vegas’s affordable cost of living, Trigg relocated the company from Valencia, California to Las Vegas in February 2017, seamlessly moving operations into a brand-new manufacturing facility and, impressively, not missing a single shipment in the process.
While the image that many people might have of the lube industry is two guys tinkering in their garage with a vat of goo and a funnel, this is a real business with very strict testing protocols, FDA guidelines and annual audits to ensure quality and compliance.