Online Exclusives

Killing Creepy-Crawlies with Kindness

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | May 18, 2010

Summer is on the way in the U.S., and so are those pesky insects. In sure nod to popularity of all things natural, consumers have more green options when it comes to the bug sprays and insecticides.

Ahhhhh—the Great Outdoors. The warm sun, the cool breeze…the bugs. Okay. Nobody—sans the neighborhood entomologist—loves that last part. But like death and taxes, insects are a part of life, especially an outdoors-y kind of existence that most American consumers gear up for this time of year.

While in years past, the citronella candle, a screened gazebo and heavy dose of not-so-pleasant-smelling sprays and foggers were the best defenses for Memorial Day-to-Labor Day outdoor jaunts, the shift in consumer attitudes and greater availability greener chemistries is changing the bug spray and insecticide market.

“Consumers are becoming more educated about chemical-based products. They are focusing on the all-natural remedies,” said Alice Collins, national sales manager for Liquid Fence Co., Inc., the Brodheadsville, PA company that sells Liquid Net, a line of 100% DEET free insect repellent sold in towelettes and spray varieties.

Liquid Net’s formulation relies on botanical oils, such as lemongrass, cedarwood and citronella oils—“those oils that old time farmers used as insect repellents. They work as well as products that have 25% DEET, but they are DEET free. Plus, they don’t have that greasy feel and are pleasantly scented,” Collins told Happi.

 
Liquid Fence’s Liquid Net towelettes.
The focus has always been on natural at Liquid Fence, which also touts Yard Net Lawn & Yard Insect Repellent, an outdoor spray that creates a repelling barrier reducing the presence of mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and black flies, spot-on insect repellents for pets and horses, and a wide range of repellents aimed at shoeing away all kinds of animals from deer and rabbits to geese, snakes and even armadillos.
“We were green when it wasn’t cool to be green,” said Collins. “Now, the market is dictating to consumers that all natural is the way to go.”

Need proof? Just take a walk down the aisles at the local garden center, big box retailer or supermarket. The insect repellent marketplace is witnessing an infestation of greener personal and area insect repellent solutions from niche players such as Liquid Net to the biggest brands in the business like Raid’s Earth Options from S.C. Johnson.

 
Liquid Fence’s yard net deters back yard bugs.
“The demand for ‘green’ and all-natural products is definitely a growing trend in the insect abatement category, agreed Jim Mills, president of Universal Pest Solutions, LP, Dallas, TX. “The key challenge for all manufacturers will be to convince consumers that the efficacy of their ‘green’ products is sufficient to satisfy their expectations.” After all, consumers have spent good money on bug abatement products that didn’t deliver.

“We have seen a number of products with limited appeal and efficacy like candles, zappers, and electric swatters that are either impractical, ineffective, and/or based on deficient ‘science.’This has created a lot frustration and skepticism among consumers,” said Mills.

His company’s answer is the AllClear Cordless Mosquito Mister, a $300 wheeled-device for backyards and other outdoor areas. It works with a remote control and sprays its own brand of concentrated mist that kills mosquitoes on contact for up to 6 hours, depending on the formulation used.

The firm recently rolled out a new 100% pure, plant-based Naturals Concentrate to complement its EPA-registered Botanical Pyrethrum Concentrate—made from dried chrysanthemum flowers—and Synergized Plus Concentrate, formulated with permethrin, the synthetic equivalent to botanical pyrethrum.

 
Universal Pest Solutions' AllClear Cordless Mosquito Mister.
But is the average homeowner willing to pay $300 for the device and the $30 per bottle of AllClear concentrates? It is an investment consumers are willing to make, according to Mills, who said that each bottle is said to provide the average user a month’s worth of protection, equating to $1.25 for each 6-hour block of protection.

“Every year Americans spend more than $36 billion dollars on lawn and garden products but aren’t able to enjoy their yards because of biting insects,” said Mills. “AllClear is a sound investment for anyone who wants to be able to comfortably enjoy their yard.”

Niche companies like Universal and Liquid Fence are working diligently to get their message heard in a marketplace that’s dominated by larger players. Another niche firm is EcoSmart Technologies, a 17-year old Atlanta-based maker of EPA-exempt pesticides.In March, EcoSmart unveiled its “Spray Safe with Steve,” campaign, which shares news, tips and advice about healthy pest control alternatives. Featuring company founder Steve Bessette, the YouTube video’s goal is to help consumers “easily navigate the often hard to understand, chemical-rich pest control industry.”

 
Universal Pest Solutions has a new plant-based Naturals Concentrate that works with its AllClear Cordless Mosquito Mister.
The firm hopes that new campaign will also help keep the momentum. According to SymphonyIRI, for the 52 weeks ended April 23, sales of EcoSmart’s multi purpose insect/rodent chemical topped $790,000. While that might be dwarfed in size by Raid multi-purpose ($57.7 million), EcoSmart multi-purpose’s sales rose more than 101% and unit sales jumped 102% while the Raid SKU saw both sales and unit sales slide 3.3% and 5.60%, respectively during the same period.

Yet, despite of the growth of more natural options, traditional chemistries from larger firms rule the marketplace. According to SymphonyIRI data for the 52 weeks ended April 23, 2010, the $154.3 million outdoor insect/rodent control chemicals marketplace is dominated by SC Johnson brands; it commands the top four spots with Deep Woods Off !($20.5 million), Off! Skintastic ($20.3 million), Off! ($16.8 million) and Raid ($16.7 million).

Competing against the powerhouse in Racine, WI can’t be easy. The firm continues to roll out insect repellent products that resonate with consumers, such as Off! Clip-On Mosquito Repellent, which hit store shelves in 2009.

For SCJ, Off! Clip-On addresses a key problem with bug sprays: women don’t like to wear them. According to a recent survey conducted by Off, 29% of women admitted to rarely or never using spray-based bug repellent because they dislike applying it to their skin, how it feels on their body or how it smells. A battery-operated device, it features a fan that circulates odorless repellent for up to 12 hours and can be clipped to a belt, pocketbook or chair.

Tallying sales of more than $12.1 million last year, it’s clear SCJ Off! Clip-On answered their needs.


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