Distilleries make sanitizers to meet pandemic demand

COVID-19 sparks demand for hygiene products

Toronto | Reuters — Some Canadian distilleries and breweries have started producing hand sanitizers alongside alcoholic drinks as the rapid spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus stokes demand for hygiene products.

The move comes after Health Canada this week relaxed rules on the sale of hand sanitizers, disinfectants and protective equipment on a temporary basis to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the potential for high profits, companies including Guelph-based Dixon’s Distilled Spirits have decided to donate hand sanitizers and disinfectants made at the facility to front-line healthcare workers.

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“I work in a hospital part-time. I see the demand and I realize that if front-line workers don’t have it, the general public is probably screwed,” Vicky Dixon, co-owner of Dixon’s, told Reuters.

Dixon’s prioritizes donating the sanitizers to healthcare workers but plans to sell smaller bottles to the public to cover the costs of donation. The distiller has donated about 500 litres so far, said Dixon.

Dillon’s Distillers at Beamsville, Ont. is also distributing the hand sanitizers it makes to local police, health workers and long-term care homes for free, according to the company’s social media accounts.

As of Wednesday, it said it had given out 3,000 bottles of sanitizer and nearly all its disinfectant.

In Toronto, Spirit of York Distillery started selling sanitizers on Thursday and said it plans to donate all proceeds to the local food bank.

Gerry Guitor, founder of Spirit of York, said he was “appalled” by news of an individual re-selling sanitizers at a premium. “So we said, ‘Let’s go the other way.'”

U.S. media have reported on a Tennessee man who purchased 18,000 bottles of sanitizer and tried to sell them online for US$70 a bottle. Last week, a Vancouver couple claimed to have made more than $100,000 reselling hoarded Lysol wipes, the Toronto Star reported.

Spirit of York sells hand sanitizers at $3 each per small bottle or free for seniors over 65 or those who can’t afford it.

“The small business community is stepping up. I would love to see some of these large organizations step up, maybe forgo profits for a while,” Guitor told Reuters.

The Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery, which makes J.P. Wiser’s whisky among other spirits at Windsor, Ont., also announced Thursday it will add hand sanitizer to its output.

The distillery, owned by Toronto-based Corby Spirit and Wine, said its sanitizers would be “donated where needed” in Windsor, and to Toronto public transit operator TTC for use at its garages and collector booths.

“In times like this, it is important that everyone, especially companies with strong Canadian roots, like ours, prioritize good corporate citizenship and step up in the name of the greater good,” Corby CEO Patrick O’Driscoll said in a release.

The Windsor plant typically produces 180,000 litres of whisky, vodka and rum per day, Corby said.

— Denise Paglinawan reports for Reuters from Toronto. Includes files from Glacier FarmMedia Network staff.

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