The quest for a 100% kid-friendly, chemical-free mosquito deterrent has gone into overdrive in the last few years with the heightened awareness of insect-borne afflictions such as the West Nile Virus. One UK-based company believes it has found the perfect solution and is looking to expand its offerings into the licensed goods arena.
‘The technology is based on an active ingredient we extract from the Eucalypts tree,’ says George Costas, CEO of Arnywear. ‘We then further refine it. It’s very skin-friendly and not chemical.’ He’s referring to his company’s patented ifabric technology (IFT), which can be injected into almost anything employing fabric, including plush, apparel and accessories. IFT works by secreting a powerful, yet natural insect-repellent vapor. The smell is undetectable to humans and Costas says it has none of the health hazards associated with Deet, the most common mosquito repellent on the market today.
Currently, IFT items are selling in the UK at major retailers including Tesco and Mothercare, as well as via Arnywear’s website. The offering encompasses what are essentially swaths of IFT cloth that range from the size of bandanas to shawls and bed sheets (US$15 to US$40) and can be used as head wraps and blankets etc. to drape over exposed skin and prevent those itchy bites.
While keeping sales figures close to the vest, Costas says that sell-through has been brisk, sustaining the company without the need for licensed product for about five years. However, things are about to change. Arnywear has entered into a preliminary partnership with UK-based Bellagio Time to develop branded Sesame Street fabric watchbands featuring IFT for sale in the US and Canada. Costas is looking at additional North American licensing partners to bring the technology to the mainstream. (The tech is currently undergoing regulatory testing State-side.)
‘Since it can basically be applied to any fabric, it would be up to the licensee to decide what to do with IFT,’ says Costas. He believes that products infused with IFT could be sold at mass retail as well as specialty and drugstores, with an emphasis on outdoor kiosks at zoos and parks.
‘In the UK, it’s mostly used in gardening and travel products,’ Costas says. ‘But in certain regions of the US, I can see it being put into everyday items.’
Further to that point, Costas says he’s concentrating his first efforts on finding partners in territories like the Southeastern US, where mosquitoes are persistent pests. He’s also open to discussing any number of different partnerships with manufacturers and owners of kids IP. ‘We are in the last throes of achieving the regulatory accreditation,’ he says. ‘So we are certainly looking for partners in North America.’