The organic/naturals trend continues in many areas of society. So what’s happening in the pest control market?

With the US pest control market often leading the way with new products and trends, perhaps the recently released ‘State of the Naturals Market’ by PCT (Pest Control Technology) in the US will give us a window into our future here in Australia.

With an increasing level of environmental awareness, especially among the younger generations, the number of customers requesting safer, natural options is on the rise. Certainly with the regular headlines highlighting potential adverse effects of insecticides and herbicides (even though some of these claims lack evidence), insecticide safety is certainly front of mind for an increasing number of consumers. According to the survey, 83% of pest managers now offer some level of natural products in their service line-up.

Residential treatments are the most likely source of ‘green’ pest services, with 81% of respondents indicating that had used a green pest control product on a residential account in the past year. In comparison, fewer pest managers had used green products at schools (43%), offices (38%) and hospitals 31%). The most commonly targeted pest with green products were ants (47%), although cockroaches (46%) and ‘occasional invaders’ (41%) were not far behind, and noticeably up on the 2019 survey figures.

Perhaps a further indicator that green solutions are becoming more mainstream is the change in pricing. When this survey was carried out in 2018, around a third of pest control companies charged a premium for green solutions; in 2019 this figure had dropped to just a fifth – presumably as a result of increased competition.

Pest managers are certainly changing their views on natural pest control products with nearly half of respondents saying they would use a natural product over a synthetic product if it was equally effective. Certainly performance remains the number one priority for many customers and pest managers, but according to pest control product manufacturer Zoecon, who sponsored the survey, the belief that natural products don’t work as well as synthetic products is a misconception. According to Zoecon, it is more important to understand how to use natural products and how to incorporate them into a pest control regime, one that is often based on integrated pest management (IPM). The natural products on the market are not necessarily a like-for-like switch for a synthetic product and indeed some of the natural products with their safety profile can open up whole new use patterns, especially in sensitive accounts.

The second misconception some pest managers have, according to Zoecon, is that it is difficult to sell customers a natural product treatment. This is particularly seen as an issue when trying to grow the sales of green services, especially to those customers who haven’t requested a natural option. As one of the Zoecon sales managers commented, “Don’t sell them on the products you are going to use, sell them on the success. You wouldn’t normally open a sales call selling the customer on the traditional pesticides you would use, so natural products don’t have to be treated any differently. If you’re confident in the product’s ability, let the results speak for themselves.”

Although the focus is on natural products or green pest control, many companies are becoming more environmentally aware as businesses. The top two reasons for a business to ‘go green’ were due to favourable public sentiment (64%) and because of a desire to reduce the company’s environmental footprint (44%). And of course to deliver on this last objective, companies were implementing a range of activities, not just selling green pest services, including the use of more fuel efficient vehicles, recycling programs and vehicle optimal routing software.

What’s the situation in Australia? Keep an eye out for our own survey coming out soon.