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Biting back

The mosquito repellent with a natural formula for success

The mosquito repellent with a natural formula for success

Millions of holidaymakers use mosquito repellent every year without giving it a second thought. But the shocking truth is that DEET, the main chemical compound in synthetic repellents, is toxic to fish, birds and bees, and exposes an estimated four million people to pesticide poisoning every year.

But there is one plant based repellent that is trying to change the market for good, with a formula that is not only highly effective, but 100% natural too.

Journey of a lifetime

When Howard Carter contracted malaria and dengue fever while travelling in Kerala in Southern India in 1998, it changed his life in more ways than one. Firstly, he got sick, really sick. In fact, he was so ill that he spent more than six months recuperating after discharge from the hospital of tropical diseases and still suffers today.

But secondly, and much more positively, he found the inspiration for incognito. During his recovery, Howard, who had always been interested in science and inventions, decided he needed to invent a repellent that would actually protect against malaria.

Howard Carter, incognito“My dream was to invent a completely natural repellent so I met with health professionals, doctors, nurses, chemists, even shamans; anyone who could offer any insight into how you could protect against malaria.”

Howard Carter, founder, incognito

“I started working with Dr Nigel Hill, one of the world’s greatest entomologists. He was very patient, very nurturing, and he helped me understand, in scientific terms, the basics of what I was trying to achieve.”

Howard embarked on a research project which saw him tour the world three times, testing natural ingredients and talking to experts. “My dream was to invent a completely natural repellent so I met with health professionals, doctors, nurses, chemists,even shamans, even shamans, anyone who could offer any insight into how you could protect against malaria,” says Howard.

He came up with 100 ingredients to test and took them with him as he travelled through high-risk malaria regions. By his third trip, Howard had come up with an entirely plant based formula that worked against all insects, and following testing by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, incognito was clinically proven to protect against malaria.

“We approached Triodos when we realised we needed to raise a significant amount to take the business forward.”

Howard Carter, founder, incognito

During this third trip, Howard met his now wife and incognito co-founder Patricia Conlon. She was very impressed with the formula and told Howard that he had to take it to market.

One hundred percent

In 2007, they formed the company and launched incognito’s  signature product, the spray. There was soon a lot of interest in what they were doing; not only were they offering a completely natural product that actually worked, but all packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, incognito’s HQ is a sustainable building and the company also gives 10% of profits to charity.

incognito mostquitoThe company was expanding fast. It had been funded so far on the couple’s own money and an overdraft facility from Triodos Bank, but they needed bigger investment, so turned to Triodos again, this time for a share issue. “We approached Triodos when we realised we needed to raise a significant amount to take the business forward,” explains Howard.

“Their corporate finance team were excellent and advised us to set up an Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) share issue. This was a great success; it raised almost £400,000 of development capital which is being used to develop a new repellent sunscreen, to be launched in 2015.” Howard says the message is clear –if you want to protect yourself and the environment, go natural.

“incognito is improving people’s holidays, and more importantly, saving lives.”

Howard Carter, founder, incognito

“Every bottle of incognito sold is one less bottle of pesticide polluting the environment. Plus, it is clinically proven to be effective against mosquitoes, midges, sandflies and ticks. incognito is improving people’s holidays, and more importantly, saving lives.”

Words: Rachel Mason

Conscious investment

Natural insect repellent company incognito was founded in 2007 by husband and wife team Howard Carter and Patricia Conlon. In 2014, after a period of rapid growth, they approached Triodos Bank for investment to fund further expansion. The Corporate Finance team at Triodos Bank put together an investment memorandum under the Enterprise Investment Scheme – EIS income tax relief is available at 30% of the cost of shares. The share issue raised £360,000 in three weeks; this money is being used to develop the business and product range.

What do you think of "Biting back"

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David Hook 5 years ago

Interesting article about an ethical company who’s products are truly amazing at keeping insects away!

Alan 5 years ago

Incognito “works against all insects”…so that means it kills bees and other pollinators as well. Have I missed something?!

Reply to Alan
James 5 years ago

It appears to be a repellant, rather than an insecticide… I’m interested to see the peer reviewed journal paper, since it is “clinically proven”. Does anyone have the reference?

Reply to James
Will Ferguson 5 years ago

incognito say:

The active ingredient in every bottle of incognito® spray and roll-on, Eucalyptus maculata citriodon, was clinically tested and peer reviewed in the BMJ http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/335/7628/1023.full.pdf along with various other journals.These products have also been extensively tested by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical medicine, along with many other universities throught the world, and acheived 100% efficacy in every single test!

Reply to Will Ferguson
Jo 5 years ago

Are any of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s tests published or available to view?

Reply to Alan
Will Ferguson 5 years ago

Here’s a response from incognito’s Howard Carter:

incognito products do not harm let alone kill any insects, they use all natural ingredients that work in harmony with the environment to protect the wearer; by working as both a camouflage and repellent. One reason why all of the products are registered and approved by the Vegan Society.

Most insect repellents normally contain a pesticide called DEET or other chemicals which do indeed kill and harm many insects. It is thought bees & other pollinators are particularly sensitive to these & other neurotoxins, hence the EU ban on Neonicotinoid pesticides. However, unlike some countries DEET is not yet banned in the UK & Europe. You can rest assured that no incognito product will ever contain this ingredient or anything of a similar nature as this would go completely against our company’s ethics and values.

Aeolienne 5 years ago

Are they really saying you can rely on this repellent alone to protect against malaria? That goes against the FCO’s official health advice, which is to use both repellents and malaria tablets.

Martin 5 years ago

You should always use antimalarials as well. While it may be true that DEET is more toxic than Incognito, it is very wrong and scientifically inaccurate to suggest that it harming many people or much of the environment. I do agree that some people find DEET irritating. Incognito is a pesticide, it just happens to be made of plant extracts. Naturally, it can kill other insects if they come in contact with it. The point is, as with DEET, that the only insects that come in contact with it are the ones that land on our skins.
I do think Triodos should be more careful about how they write up their projects.

Joe 5 years ago

Where does it say Incognito is a pesticide? Can you elaborate on this statement? I’ve re read the article and it seems clear that it is a repellent.