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By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | June 9, 2011

The market for insect repellents and insecticides has stabilized.

Sometimes, a crisis can be a marketer’s best friend. For example, when flu warnings are issued each fall, sales of hand sanitizers soar.Years ago, when Lyme Disease started making headlines, those backyard deer didn’t seem quite so cute anymore, so consumers began loading up on deer deterrents and tick sprays. And when concerns about mosquito-borne West Nile Virus surfaced back in 1999, sales of insect repellent began to rise sharply. No wonder, then, that pest control that pest control sales have grown over the years to become nearly a $500 million business. However, in the past couple of years there haven’t been many headline-grabbing pest scares and sales in the category have stabilized.
According to data from SymphonyIRI, insect repellent sales rose less than 1% to $158.2 million in food, drug and mass merchandisers (excluding Walmart) for the year ended April 17, 2011. Leading the way is S.C. Johnson’s Deepwoods Off, which posted an 18.07% sales gain to $24.6 million. The No. 2 brand in the category, Off Skintastic, another S.C. Johnson brand, recorded a 10.92% gain to nearly $23 million.

Rounding out the top 10 insect repellent brands are: Off Outdoor, $19.0 million; Raid Outdoor, $17.6 million; Off Active, $7.1 million; Tiki Outdoor, $5.8 million; Hot Shot Outdoor, $5.7 million; Private label, $4.7 million; Raid Yard Guard, $4.3 million and Cutter Skinsations, $3.8 million.
One of the most effective ways to keep mosquitos away is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, better known as DEET. The ingredient has proven efficacy against ticks too, but there’s a growing cadre of consumers who are concerned about applying DEET to their skin. Their concern has created an opportunity for makers of DEET alternative products.

“Pre West Nile Virus, the word on the street was that DEET is bad,” recalled Edward Abraham, president of Liquid Fence. “But then West Nile Virus came along and consumers were forced to pick the lesser of two evils. Although DEET works great, there are natural DEET-free products out there and Liquid Fence is one of them.”

Liquid Fence, Brodheadsville, PA, was formed 12 years ago—just as West Nile Virus was gaining traction in the U.S. Today, the company offers a range of insect and animal repellents for human, pet and garden use. All of the formulas rely on essential oils, such as citronella, cedarwood, geranium and lemongrass, to repel pests.According to Abraham, interest in these “natural” solutions will only continue to soar with the next generation of consumers.

“The entire world is paying attention to the green concept, whether it involves the food we eat or the products we apply to our bodies. The green world is growing.”

As the father of two, Abraham knows that school teachers are keen on promoting conservation and the use of green products—effectively impacting consumer habits for the next 60 or so years.

“As these kids start buying products on their own, the trend will only get bigger,” he asserted.

To reach these consumers, next year Liquid Fence will launch EcoLogic, which is billed as a natural line of lawn care products. The launch will come as more municipalities begin to regulate what can and can’t be sprayed on public green spaces, according to Abraham.

Essential oils as well as plant-based enzymes are the technology is behind BedbugLogic and LiceLogic, two new products from Logic Products Group.According to the manufacturer, BedbudLogic Protection & Treatment Spray is clinically proven to destroy bedbugs within seconds of contact. The sprays are available in thyme and cedar scents. Prices range from $6.25 for a 2oz. spray, to $32 for a 24oz. spray to $78 for a one-gallon refill.

LiceLogic prevention and treatment products are said to penetrate and destroy lice from the outside-in, while eroding nits. The line is available in rosemary, lavender, lemongrass and peppermint. A 32oz household lice protection spray retails for $38, while the 4oz repellent is $16.

Meanwhile, researchers at Vanderbilt say that they have created an insect repellent that is thousands of times stronger than DEET and is effective against all insects, including flies, ants and moths. The material, known as VUAA1, is said to overload the insect’s sensory receptors, making them unable to detect the scent of blood and other attractants.

Unfortunately, VUAA1 is still in the research phase. The Vanderbilt team is still isolating the active component and has yet to begin toxicology studies.

The disease-carrying mosquito has become more than a pest in recent years.
There Is an Alternative to DEET

When it comes to selecting insect repellents many parents have safety concerns with DEET. There is an alternative to DEET that has been tested for a number of toxicity risks and has shown excellent skin tolerance and general safety.IR3535 is derived from a naturally occurring amino acid, beta-alanine.Testing confirms that IR3535 (INCI: Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate), provides an extra margin of safety for those who apply repellents to children and for repeated use. IR3535 was developed in 1976 and marketed exclusively in Europe until 1995.In 1996 it was registered with the EPA in the US.

The World Health Organization classified the safety of IR3535 as class “U,” indicating that the product is unlikely to present acute health hazard during normal use.IR3535 is tested to be effective against a variety of insects from mosquitoes, ticks, lice, flies (black flies, stable, deer, house), wasps and bees.The efficacy is comparable with DEET and easy to formulate with. Current registration is virtually worldwide.The Anti-Infection Research Institute of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation stated after review of IR3535 that the data indicates the low toxicity of IR3535 and would particularly recommend the use of IR3535 as the basis for commercial repellents for use by children.A French study published in Bulletin Epidemiologique (BEH) reported on the safety in use of IR3535 for children younger than 3 months to older than 24 years of age.


Consumer interest in keeping repellent away from the skin has created a $111 million pest control device market, according to SymphonyIRI.Within this category, devices such as Off Clip On Mosquito Repellent, rely on a fan to circulate repellent, such as metofluthrin, for up to 12 hours.

According to SymphonyIRI, sales actually fell 0.89% for the year ended April 17. Off Clip On leads the way, with sales of $18.8 million, followed by Raid, $15.5 million; Motomco Tom Cat, $13.1 million; D-Con, $9.9 million; Combat, $6.3 million;Off Power Pad, $5.0 million; Pic, $4.5 million; Riddex, $3.4 million; Victors, $3.1 million andTerro, $2.4 million.

However, in a Consumer Reports’ study conducted last year, devices didn’t do so well. In fact, CR editors suggested that consumers opt instead for a highly-rated insect repellent spray.
Gains in Insecticides

The biggest gains in bug control in the past year have come from within the insectide category. According to SymphonyIRI, sales within this segment jumped nearly 7% to $87.8 million. Raid Multipurpose formula dominates the segment with a 62% share and sales of nearly $55 million. However, sales of S.C. Johnson’s Raid Max jumped more than 900% last year to top $13.6 million to hold the No. 2 spot in the category. Rounding out the top 10 brands are Hot Shot, $4.9 million; Bengal, $2.8 million; Ortho Home Defense, $1.4 million; Ecosmart, $974,652; Combat Quick Kill, $868,758; Tiki, $689,156; Terro, $623,965 and Private Label, $614,268.

To keep ahead of the competition, Raid added Pine Forest Fresh scent ant killer to its collection earlier this year.

Earlier this year, Liquid Fence rolled out a wasp and hornet killer that relies on essential oils to get the job done. But other marketers also offer a range of green options. For example, S.C. Johnson’s Raid brand markets Earth Options, the formulas contain pyrethrins to kill such pests as ants, crickets, fleases, houseflies and silver fish.

Perhaps the biggest news in pest control during the past year has been bed bug control. In fact, bedbug infestation has risen 71% since 2001, according to United Industries Corp., which manufactures the Hot Shot bedbug treatment line.

With bed bug infestations in the U.S. on the rise, entomologist Timothy J. Gibb, PhD, director of the Insect Diagnostic Lab for the Department of Entomology at Purdue University, says it’s important to be wary of bed bugs that could be moving into your home or workplace this summer via suitcases, backpacks, computer cases, clothing and other portable items. During the heavy summer travel months, especially, it’s important to understand how to identify and avoid a bed bug infestation, and how to get rid of them when discovered.
Mosquito coils have given way to more sophisticated devices in recent years.
“The two points I urge travelers to keep in mind are awareness and inspection,” said Dr. Gibb. “Knowing what to look for as soon as you enter a hotel room, how to identify bed bugs and what to do if you find them can help alleviate the issue and help decrease the possible spread from travel this summer.”

To spread the word about the dangers of bedbugs, United Industries’ Hot Shot Bed Bug Man is touring some of the most infested cities in the U.S. Stops will include: New York (May 29-June 2), Washington, D.C (June 5-9), Philadelphia (June 12-16) and Chicago (June 28-July 2). The Hot Shot character also will be in Los Angeles June 20-24.

Leave It to a Professional

According to Kline & Company, sales of professional mosquito control products rose from about $32 million in 1999 to nearly $75 million in 2010. Kline recently published a new report on the segment, which is available at

According to Kline, the market is nearly evenly split between larvicides and adulticides. But while the category is growing, so too are regulations. The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requires mosquito control professionals to apply for and receive a permit prior to the first application of mosquito control products and seek a new permit for every calendar year following in which application will be conducted.

While the battle is being fought, the mosquito population continues to grow. In fact, Kline researches note that there are more than 200 species of mosquitos in the U.S. With so many mosquitos, not to mention other pests, the market for insect repellents and insecticides should remain stable for years to come.

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