Most of the U.S. is months away from mosquito season, but growing concern about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, found mainly in Latin America, is already leading to double- and even triple-digit sales increases and stepped up merchandising for mosquito repellents.
Concern about the virus among Olympic athletes and travelers is also raising questions about whether the disease will hurt the Summer Games in Brazil or marketers plans for the event.
Revenue for the whole pest-control category was up 23% to $32 million for the four weeks ended Jan. 24, according to IRI, vs. 8% for the full 52-week period. Mosquito repellents were only part of that. A warmer-than-usual winter in most of the county through last month also led to surprising growth for an array of lawn and garden products, leading to strong 14% sales growth for Scotts Miracle-Gro last quarter during a traditionally slow season.
But mosquito repellents are really flying off the shelves. Sales of various SCJohnson Off! repellent products soared 47% to 96% for the latest four-week period vs. a year ago, according to IRI. And sales of Spectrum Brands' Cutter mosquito repellents rose an even faster 59% to 138% during the same period.
Zika isn't the only factor pushing up repellent sales, though it's the biggest. An outbreak of dengue fever on the island of Hawaii since November also has been driving demand, and led SCJ to announce yesterday it's donating 54,000 units of Off! for island residents to use.
In Argentina and Brazil, where it's mosquito season already and where the Zika outbreak is widespread, SCJ is increasing production by 400% to 600% over last year's normal levels, a spokesman said.