Breathing easy: Blairex president talks about launching a product amid pandemic

A view of Blairex Laboratories new product Breathe Free Essentials in Columbus, Ind., Friday, July 24, 2020. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Not too many companies have moved boldly to introduce new products during a pandemic, but one Columbus company has.

In June, Columbus’s Blairex Laboratories launched a new product, Breathe Free Essentials, even amid the chaos of a COVID-19 pandemic-infected economy.

“We’d been working on development and launch of Breathe Free Essentials for the last 18 months,” said Blairex President Jeff Logston. “And our timing just happened to coincide with the pandemic. We feel that the product itself meets the consumers where they are now. It allows them a moment to pause and gives them a retreat, where they need it, no matter where this crazy, current situation may take us.”

Breathe Free Essentials is an aromatherapy device that delivers essential oils through PureHale technology. The personal inhaler activates compressed air as energy to disperse a nebulizer-like mist in a cordless handheld device.

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“By combining the best of nebulizers, essential oil diffusers, and personal inhalers, PureHale and its pre-filled Bag-on-Valve (BOV) technology, eliminates the need for electricity, is cord-free, offers completely silent operation, and can be used in any direction,” the company said. The product is also compliant with all TSA guidelines.

At present, Breathe Free Essentials is only available for purchase through Amazon. Logston said that even before the pandemic, the company decided to take advantage of the digital age and launch the product through e-commerce only.

“We thought that by doing so, we could personally and directly deliver our message and our product and its benefits to those using it,” he said. “So that actually has lined up well with the trend that we’ve seen in the pandemic. Obviously, people switching to more e-commerce, away from brick and mortar, and continuing to gather their information electronically. So we also, in that same vein, feel that social media influencers play an important role.”

He allowed that launching a new product is always a challenge.

“… But we’ve had a great response. We think that we have an innovative product unlike anything else on the market, so we are definitely excited and encouraged with where we are.”

He said that the launch is both of a new product and a re-brand on an old brand. About 20 years ago, Blairex acquired Breathe Free, a nasal moisturizing gel.

Logston said this marks the company’s first product or brand launch in over a decade.

“The company had launches in the ‘90s,” Logston said. “… It acquired 15 brands in 1999. It acquired Zilactin in 2005 and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste in 2006. It had not acquired or launched any brands since.”

Apart from Breathe Free Essentials, Blairex has two active brands: Zilactin, a cold sore relief gel, and Sleepinal, a sleep aid capsule.

“We were looking at how best to expand our stable of brands,” Logston said. “And we have been known for being, having expertise in saline in a Bag-on-Valve delivery system. And we appreciate innovative packaging and innovative products. And Breathe Free Essentials fits that mold.”

Logston said described Blairex as “a pharmaceutical brand owner, marketer and distributor” and its sister company, Applied Laboratories, as a contract manufacturer for “over-the-counter pharmaceutical devices and cosmetics.”

Blairex was launched in Evansville in 1976. In 1984, Tony Moravec established Applied Laboratories as a regulatory consulting firm. Four years later, he moved Applied Laboratories into a 20,533-square-foot building in Columbus, and the company began its work in manufacturing.

Moravec began working with Blairex in the mid-’80s and bought into the company in the late 80’s, Logston said. In the mid-90’s, Moravec bought a controlling interest in Blairex and moved the company to Columbus.

Today, the two companies work in tandem, with Applied Laboratories meeting the manufacturing needs of Blairex.

“Between the two, there is great synergy and the ability to be nimble to the market and to our consumers,” Logston said. “… With our structure between Blairex Laboratories as a brand owner and Applied Laboratories as a contract manufacturer, we can be very quick to react.”

On Jan. 1, 2018, Moravec stepped down as president of both companies, though he is still the chairman for both companies, as well as the majority shareholder of Moravec Holding Corp., which owns both companies. Logston became president when Moravec stepped down.

Logston joined Blairex in 2016 as the vice president of legal and administrative affairs. Before that, he earned his bachelor’s degree in business, worked in both manufacturing management and retail management and earned a law degree and became an attorney.

When asked what affect COVID-19 has had on the two companies, Logston noted that company officials have added “additional safety precautions” to protect staff.

“We have been clearly deemed essential throughout this,” he said. “So we manufacture liquids, gels, creams, lotions, ointments that would fall in that, nasal mist and cough syrups and other OTC products that have seen an increase in need and use over this time. So we’ve actually been 100% boots on the ground through this entire pandemic. … We are doing what we can to keep everyone safe, continue to practice all of our safety restrictions as much as possible. But it has been a blessing, but a challenge, to continue to work through all of this.”

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To learn more about Breathe Free Essentials, visit