BCB International believes in delivering products that protect and save lives

The origin of BCB International (BCB) stretches right back to 1854, when Dr Brown, the then Surgeon General of the British Army, invented a cough syrup. “By all accounts, it was a great medicine,” opens Andrew Howell, Managing Director, “as it provided a truly kill or cure approach to managing an everyday cough, with its high levels of morphine. A good night’s sleep is a proven remedy to such an ailment after all.”

The huge success of Dr Brown’s cough syrup led to him establishing BCB Brown’s Cough Bottle, a company that Andrew’s father purchased after WWII to use as a medical wholesaler for his chain of drug stores throughout Cardiff, Wales.

“I took the name when I started my own company in 1979,” he continues, “and utilized the brand’s medical background to start producing first aid and survival kits for a local life raft manufacturer in South Wales. That first item set the tone for BCB’s offering, as to this day, we still specialize in support and survival equipment primarily for the military, commercial marine, camping and retail, and aid and humanitarian markets; four sectors that operate in slightly different ways.”

Andrew aims to bring six new products to market each year, on the ideology that businesses should not just be about profit but should focus on bringing ideas to life, especially during times of war, pandemic, or natural catastrophe, where the world currently finds itself.

“One of my philosophies has always been that there’s no point in having a good idea, if you don’t do anything with it. Britain has long suffered from developing great inventions then not exploiting and sharing them effectively. What’s the point if you don’t offer your products to as many people as possible? You’ll never know how many lives you can save or make a significant difference to. We don’t necessarily come up with our own ideas organically; they may require a prompt from say the Ministry of Defense (MOD) or the marine industry, who usually present us with an issue that our team of engineers then work to innovate a solution for.”  In some instances, the company reaches out to collaborate with Cardiff University during its product development stages.

Life-saving solutions

Among BCB’s pioneering offerings are products such as its ballistic underwear, an ‘invisibility cloak’ to protect soldiers and vehicles from thermal imaging drones on the battlefield, and Fire Dragon, an innovative ethanol-based fire lighter.

“I’m very proud of our ballistic underwear,” Andrew states. “It was designed as a solution to the horrific injuries that British soldiers were sustaining from land mines in Afghanistan. As the blast from this weaponry travels upwards, it risks rupturing the victim’s femoral artery, causing them to bleed out and will, at the very least, inflict serious and life-changing damage to that area of the body. Besides the external organs in your groin, they can wreak havoc on your bladder and colon, which are very difficult organs to repair.

“Our idea was to develop a form of underwear that balances comfort with full protection, and we succeeded. Our ballistic underwear is very soft and comfortable so it can be worn directly against the skin, and thus far, it has saved hundreds of lives all over the world. “I have run a half marathon in them, they are so comfortable” confirms Andrew. With 40 percent of Ukraine reportedly covered in Russian landmines and other unexploded ordnance, all people – soldiers, farmers and other civilians – should be wearing them.

“As for our invisibility cloak, as I like to call it, which we developed with a local university, this was in response to Putin’s implementation of heat-seeking drones in Crimea in 2014,” Andrew explains. “By sending these small and generally cheap Chinese-manufactured drones into the sky, his forces were able to relay ally coordinates back to artillery units some 50 kilometers away, by using their thermal cameras.

“At the time, this was a completely different level of warfare to any we had seen before, and I was desperate to develop a means of hiding soldiers in the field and ultimately saving the lives at risk from this new threat. Traditionally our camouflage systems have only been able to hide beings within the visual and infrared spectrums, but now, with our latest development, we are able to camouflage within the thermal spectrum too. The material is incredibly lightweight and hollow, which allows it to blend in with any backdrop without the risk of it lifting with the wind and acting as a sail. One drawback is that it’s slightly more expensive than other options on the market, but really, it’s incredibly cost effective when you compare it to the value of a human life.”

Playing its part

Given BCB’s participation within the military and commercial marine industries, a lot of its products are directly transferable to its clients within the retail and camping markets. This has played a significant role in the commercialization of its Fire Dragon product, which was initially designed for British military. During its development, the company patented a method for solidifying ethanol, to produce a fossil-fuel free and clean alternative to the traditional peat or kerosene-based firelighters.

“Not only is ethanol far safer and more practical in block form, but it also burns cleanly and can be used to sterilize one’s hands before you begin cooking,” Andrew says. “It was a collaborative effort with Cardiff University, and we started selling to the British Army in 2016. My goal now is to educate other armies around the globe and to get this into the hands of the four billion or so people worldwide who still use charcoal and wood as their primary fuel source.

“It’s not only a step to improve people’s lives, but one that will also benefit the environment long term,” he concludes. “It’s made from waste vegetation, not fossil fuels, and it doesn’t give off the carcinogens and carbon black that its competitors are associated with. We’ve had the pandemic, we’re enduring the war, we are already in the middle of our next huge crisis of climate change. If we could help those billions of people move away from wood and charcoal, we could save millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year, and BCB is here to support that venture – even if it’s only part of the solution.”