Tonic with that sanitiser?

I don’t mind a gin and tonic at the end of a long hard week, but a gin-scented hand sanitiser?

Out of desperation comes innovation. Thousands of businesses have been forced to shut their doors in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some are finding new ways to keep at least part of their workforce.

One of the first products that panicked shoppers rushed to buy in bulk was hand sanitiser. Consequently, it was largely unavailable for weeks. That’s when some clever types saw an opportunity and added a new product to their traditional offerings.

Now, several distilleries around Australia, including Four Pillars, Bundaberg Rum, Manly Spirits Co. and Archie Rose, are making hand sanitiser and keeping more staff employed than would have been possible.

In Healesville in regional Victoria, the Four Pillars distillery was forced to close its tasting room and bar to the public, but some of the hospitality jobs lost have been recreated in making, bottling and packaging hand sanitiser.

Four Pillars co-founder Stuart Gregor, who also chairs the Australian Distillers Association, says a number of Australian spirit makers were approached by hospitals, healthcare professionals, governments and consumers to produce hand sanitiser because of the shortages.

“We’ve been firing off all sorts of recipes and we’ve all agreed on the World Health Organisation-approved one, which is used by medical professionals,” he says.

The first stock is now being made available to healthcare professionals and a second product, which he says is more ‘ginny’, is being made available to consumers to use at home.

Sydney-based spirits company Archie Rose shifted production from spirits to make 4500 500ml bottles of hand sanitiser – and sold out.

Founder Will Edwards said: “We’re in a unique position to manufacture this essential product – with the required federal licences, dangerous goods approvals, access to raw materials and expertise – and so we’re now making hand sanitiser our production focus.

“We will continue to produce sanitiser for as long as we can, or as long as is required, and this will also support the redeployment of as many of our full-time bar staff as possible to assist in filling, packaging and shipping the product.”

For Four Pillars, another upside of producing hand sanitiser was that it could use existing one-litre bottles destined for use in duty-free products.

Mr Gregor says duty-free sales normally account for about 20 per cent of Four Pillars’ business globally and that had now gone to “zero” with international travel at a virtual standstill.

“There’s not a bottle being sold in airports,” he says.

He says the sector was already facing difficult trading conditions, but “now it’s almost impossible”.

“It’s such a young, growing and exciting industry, and it would be a great shame if we lost distilleries over the next six months,” he says.

Have you come across any of these products from distilleries? What other innovative ventures have you seen?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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