A New Zealand company is selling "tens of thousands" of canisters of New Zealand air to China every month.

Breathe Ezy New Zealand director Phillip Duval said the fledgling company was "thundering along", with its 7.7L bottles of compressed air from the Southern Alps retailing for around $25 each, and upwards of $100 in some instances.

"The pollution has been particularly bad in Beijing and in some other cities. It's difficult for New Zealanders to understand the extent of the problem, but it is shockingly bad.

"People are desperate for some sort of a solution -- whether that's psychological or absolutely, definitely beneficial from a health point of view is neither here nor there."


Duval doesn't claim that his product has particular health benefits, but "it's beneficial in the sense that it's fresh air. No-one would ever argue that fresh air is anything other than beneficial", he said.

"It's fresh mountain air from New Zealand so it's no different from someone buying a bottle of water, I suppose. They could drink tap water or they could get some nice fresh water from Fiji - Fiji Water - which the stars in America buy in preference to any other brand."

Each canister contains 150-200 breaths of air, which is collected by company staff from four locations in the Southern Alps. They even offer tailor-made products where staff are helicoptered onto glaciers or into high-alpine zones to collect air.

"People in China ... firmly believe that it's a wonderful intake of air that is beneficial to them. It's a funny thing, it's like people who say 'I need a coffee'. They don't really need coffee but in their minds they want to have their coffee to give them a lift."

The company doesn't set how much the air retails for, but Duval said the astronomical price that some distributors were charging was indicative of the Chinese market.

"If something is too cheap they will believe it is a cheap product in more ways than just the price," he said.

There are about half a dozen online retailers selling air from New Zealand. Bottles from other countries are also available, but most are cheaper than New Zealand air.

A Massey University senior lecturer in journalism and marketing said the idea was "pretty mad".

"Presumably the customers think they're getting something when this package is activated so there is a tangible effect on them, however brief it may be. The lasting impact is going to be so negligible I think it's pointless.

"Is it clever? No I don't think so - it's a gimmick."

Duval said the company hoped to eventually branch into India.