Drinks industry joins sanitizer supply wars

Responding to the huge demand for alcohol-based hand-sanitizer gels, many distilleries – both Irish and international - have committed to joining the fight against the spread of Covid-19. 


500,000 litres of GNS is to be made available to the UK and the Republic of Ireland for national healthcare systems and workers.

500,000 litres of GNS is to be made available to the UK and the Republic of Ireland for national healthcare systems and workers.


Diageo, for example, maker of Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, has pledged to enable the creation of more than eight million bottles of hand sanitiser by donating up to two million litres of alcohol to manufacturing partners to help protect frontline healthcare workers in the fight against Covid-19.

The world’s leading distiller will provide Grain Neutral Spirit – a 96% strength ethyl alcohol used primarily in production of vodka and gin – making it available at no cost to hand sanitiser producers in multiple countries to help overcome shortages in healthcare systems. This donation will enable the production of more than eight million 250ml bottles of hand sanitiser.

500,000 litres of GNS is to be made available to the UK and the Republic of Ireland for national healthcare systems and workers while 100,000 litres of GNS is to be made available to Italy to support the healthcare system and other national needs there.

In the US 500,000 litres of GNS is to be supplied to meet local community needs while in Brazil Diageo’s Ypioca plant will produce 50,000 litres of spirit for the local healthcare system in conjunction with the Ceara State Government.

Diageo’s East Africa Breweries in Kenya will enable production of 135,000 litres of sanitiser, prioritising vulnerable and at risk groups while in India 500,000 litres of alcohol are to be supplied to the sanitizer industry across 25 States for use in national healthcare systems and for consumers.

In Australia Diageo’s Bundaberg Distilling Company is to produce 100,000 litres of ethanol for the Queensland Government to be forwarded to hand sanitiser manufacturers.

“Healthcare workers are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic and we’re determined to do what we can to help protect them,” said Diageo’s Chief Executive Ivan Menezes, “This is the quickest and most effective way for us to meet the surging demand for hand sanitiser around the world.”

Here in Ireland, Clonakilty Distillery in West Cork is creating sanitizers with an alcohol content of 63% ABV, going into production immediately with bottles and equipment in place. The first batch of 5,000 bottles will be ready this week and will be offered for free to local charities. The company will supply the rest at cost, to the local community at first.

Also in Cork Irish Distillers has said that it’s creating large scale quantities of alcohol free to manufacture hand sanitizer gel in partnership with Cork firm Mervue Laboratories which will provide it to the HSE.

Elsewhere, in Leitrim, The Shed Distillery has announced it will commence distribution of emergency alcohol and surface cleaner across the region and will supply alcohol to Ovelle Pharmaceuticals, creating 12,500 bottles of hand sanitizer gel with this batch.

A number of other distilleries and drinks producers are also gearing up to manufacture hand sanitizer gel once they’ve complied with the necessary regulations and have sourced the other components.

And a shift in production by Bacardí at the world’s largest premium rum distillery is helping supply ethanol required to produce hand sanitizers too.

The Bacardi Corporation distillery in Cataño, Puerto Rico, where more than 80% of the company’s rums are produced, has partnered with Puerto Rico-based manufacturer Olein Refinery to provide raw materials that will enable the production of more than 1.7 million units of 10-ounce hand sanitizer. At 70% alcohol, these products are in line with the recommendations by the World Health Organisation for containing the spread of the virus.

The temporary shift in production began on March 17th and will continue as needed. This emergency action will not disrupt the production or supply of Bacardí rum, the company added.

spiritsEurope, which represents spirits producers across Europe, has announced that a number of its distilleries are converting so that they can produce and donate tonnes of hand sanitiser to their local communities. It has also called for the minimisation of business or supply chain disruptions and “to resist the imposition of barriers to international trade which will be vital to economic recovery”.


Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free