The US Bitrex® Story
Mitchell Tracy and Market Actives developed the US market for Bitrex®, the bitterest stuff on earth. Market Actives continues to provide Ingredient Branding services for this Johnson Matthey/Macfarlan Smith product. The Bitrex® bitter safety additive is credited with the lives of children and pets while protecting and enhancing the brands of leading US consumer product companies.
Answering an ad for “Chemical Concept Sales” in the New York Times in 1988, Mr. Tracy was hired to initiate the US market penetration for Bitrex®. Bitrex® is a registered trademark for Denatonium Benzoate discovered and developed by 200-year old opiates manufacturer Macfarlan Smith, Ltd. in Edinburgh, Scotland. Macfarlan scientists were researching lidocaine derivatives when they found this extremely bitter molecule.
The concept of a bitter “aversive agent” or “bitterant” was virtually unrecognized as a poisoning prevention tool for consumer products in 1988. Now, Bitrex® is a leading Ingredient Brand and nearly every bottle of antifreeze, nail polish remover, slug bait, rat bait, compressed gas “dusters” and many cleaners, detergents, polishes ethanol fuels and cosmetics contain a bitterant.
To introduce the Bitrex® concept in the US a multi-disciplinary product strategy was implemented. First, proof was needed to get the concept accepted. Research focused on Bitrex® efficacy, particularly on validation of Human Taste Testing Protocols. Working with Macfarlan Drs. Marshal Smalley and Harry Payne, Mr. Tracy co-authored research papers on Bitrex® use in pesticides and in antifreeze 1, 2. The human taste tests developed to determine effective dosages of Bitrex® in these products have been accepted by companies and governments worldwide.
Promotion of these research findings secured endorsements from 22 national medical, veterinary and safety organizations including the American Medical Association and the National Safety Council. Work with the industry, trade and standards organizations gained commercial interest. Publicity landed the Bitrex® story on national TV, in major newspapers and magazine stories. Mr. Tracy testified in the US Congress, California House and Oregon Senate on legislation requiring bitterant in consumer products.
Taking this momentum to industry scientists and brand managers, issues of formulation, manufacturing and marketing were addressed. Regulatory authorizations were secured for the variety of product applications that required approvals; the EPA for pesticides, the CTFA for cosmetics, the FDA for pharmaceutics; the USDA for cleaning products; NIOSH for respirator fit testing; and, the TTB for industrial and bio-fuel ethanol.
Today, thousands of products are protected with Bitrex® and the Bitrex® Human Taste Testing protocols. Each year the Bitrex® logo and safety promotions reach millions of parents, educators and children. Fifteen US states have enacted laws requiring the bitterant denatonium benzoate in antifreeze and other consumer products to protect children and pets. National legislation is pending in the US Congress. Phillip Kotler, renowned marketing author, published Ingredient Branding” in 2010 featuring Bitrex® as successful case study of this newly documented marketing discipline.
Market Actives is proud to continue its work saving lives and protecting brands with Bitrex®.
- 1. “Denatonium Benzoate as a Bitter Aversive Additive in Ethylene Glycol and Methanol-Based Automotive Products”,
H. Payne, M. Smalley, M. Tracy, 1991, Society of Automotive Engineers, Tech. Pub #930589, 1993.
- 2. “Denatonium Benzoate Use to Mitigate Pesticide Ingestion”,
H. Payne & M. Tracy Pesticide Formulations & Application Systems Vol. 14 Eds. Hall, Berger & Collins, ASTM STP 1234, 1995