Move over, gin. Distillery moves to producing hand sanitizer to fight COVID-19
'We've completely stopped producing beer, gin, whisky. We're not producing any of our usual products'
Instead of bottling its award-winning gin, Distillerie Fils du Roy on the Acadian Peninsula is filling those bottles with hand sanitizer made on site.
The distillery is helping keep some government agencies supplied with hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Josée Boudreau, a chemist and project manager with the company in Petit-Paquetville, N.B., said plant management decided it should step in after learning about shortages in parts of Europe and Canada.
"We can help, let's get ready," Boudreau said of the plan.
Boudreau said the same equipment could be used to make the high concentration of alcohol needed for the sanitizer.
"We've completely stopped producing beer, gin, whisky. We're not producing any of our usual products anymore. We're using the bottling lines, the tanks, everything, to produce enough hand sanitizer."
The distillery also has all the permits and licences in place to allow it to receive, buy and sell alcohol.
When it came to deciding the formula to make the product, Boudreau said the distillery stuck to the recommendations from the Word Health Organization and followed its recipe.
"We don't want to take any chances. If you have the proper equipment and the capacity to use and bottle alcohol you can follow these steps and then produce hand sanitizer."
The distillery was having an issue locating bottles for the hand sanitizer. Some customers were bringing their own containers into the store to be filled.
"In the short term, we've been just bagging some sanitizer in plastic bags. People just buy them and take them home and pour them in their own [container]."
The distillery is now supplying the province's Emergency Measures Organization. "So now we've been bottling using our bottling line where we bottle 750-milliletre gin bottles," said Boudreau.
Boudreau said people can buy the hand sanitizer at its location.
Pharmacies are also distributing the product to their stores. The distillery is shipping it to offices and to various government agencies that need a supply.
The chemist said there were challenges.
"I won't pretend that we have everything under control but we're getting ready. We're extremely busy but we're ready to supply a lot."
Boudreau estimated the distillery can make thousands of litres of hand sanitizer each day and said one of the challenges is managing it so it can be done consistently.
The company is working closely with EMO.
"This is one of our priorities is to supply them with the amount they need," Boudreau said.
In the the same spirit of co-operation, the company that provides the distillery with bottles is stopping its bottling line to produce bottles for the sanitizer.
With files from Shift New Brunswick