Joining Forces

Virginia’s beverage makers create a cooperative to streamline hand sanitizer production.

Almost two months into the coronavirus outbreak, Virginia distilleries, breweries, beer distributors, cider makers, wineries, and their respective umbrella organizations have consolidated their efforts to make hand sanitizer, establishing a consortium to increase production and organize distribution to regional health and emergency workers.

While many individuals within those industries continue to have a tremendous positive impact, they are donating hand sanitizer free or at very low cost, so are increasingly operating “in the red” during the current pandemic. The consortium, working cooperatively under the leadership of the Center for Applied Innovation in Yorktown, will now be able to assist in locating materials and funding, as well as share collective knowledge.

“We started producing hand sanitizer in response to frantic inquiries from local healthcare and first responders,” says Allan Delmare of Dida’s Distillery in Huntly, one of the first beverage makers to join the cooperative. But distillers soon noticed that prices for ethanol, which is used to make sanitizer, have been increased (from a market average of $3.75 a gallon to more than $20), the supply chain for containers to put hand sanitizer in was disrupted, and finding a source for small containers, pump-top lids, and the like was impossible. “This is where the idea of the consortium came to be,” says Delmare, “bringing together breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, manufacturing, and distribution resources to solve this problem. What we quickly learned was that there was, in fact, no shortage—the materials like ethanol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, containers, and tops were in ample supply; it just took a little ‘outside the box thinking’ to organize everyone around a common goal and execute.”

The group is now asking all Virginia beverage makers to join the effort, while also seeking small businesses and other industry partners to assist with locating and coordinating transportation, packing materials, and other logistics. “The level of support that the Virginia Wine Industry has received during this crisis has been overwhelming. We are so glad to have the opportunity to return the support through this program,” says George Hodson, president of the Virginia Wineries Association.

Businesses that would like to assist the effort, as well as healthcare organizations and essential businesses that would like to request sanitizer, can contact the consortium via the Center for Applied Innovation. Consumers looking for hand sanitizer should continue to contact local suppliers directly.

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