As the Coronavirus crisis causes shortages in cleaning products, many distilleries have turned to making hand sanitizer. This includes global corporations like Pernod Ricard, which is both donating alcohol to hand sanitizer companies while also promoting its production in some of the company’s craft distilleries.
For a deeper look into these humanitarian actions, we recently spoke with Ann Mukherjee, CEO of Pernod Ricard USA, and Melissa Hanesworth, VP of North America Manufacturing.
Beverage Dynamics: Why is it so important to produce hand sanitizer at this time?
Ann Mukherjee and Melissa Hanesworth: In times like these it is important that everyone — especially companies with strong U.S. roots like ours — prioritize good corporate citizenship and step up in the name of the greater good. We’re glad that we were able to form a partnership with the federal government and repurpose our spirits production facilities to meet national need in this time of uncertainty.
BD: What do you hope to accomplish?
AM & MH: We hope to support the efforts of the U.S. government and communities across the country in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
BD: How much of an undertaking is it to switch over distilleries to making this kind of alcohol?
The production is not that different: it has the same ethanol base as most of the blending we do. It’s a matter of combining ethanol with a number of different ingredients, which the people at our facilities are skilled at doing and have been doing for years.
BD: What exactly does this entail? What kind of product exactly are you now creating?
AM & MH: The WHO recipe for hand sanitizer calls for it to contain ethanol, glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. Our production facilities have the base ingredient — ethanol — and we had to source the latter two ingredients. We also had to source the chemicals needed for the denaturing process, which alters the product so it’s not fit for human consumption.
BD: How much of this alcohol can you produce?
AM & MH: Our facilities across the country are aiming to produce over 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. Pernod Ricard USA is working with the U.S. government on plans for distribution of the hand sanitizer.