Local distilleries have become a new source of hand sanitizer when the product is in desperately short supply. Leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, newspapers were telling stories about folks stockpiling everything from toilet paper to peanut butter. Anxiety drove some; greed drove others.
The lack of some products, like peanut butter, is an annoyance. The shortage of vital commodities, such as face masks and surgical gloves, poses a severe threat to the public’s welfare. One of those critical products that sold out quickly was hand sanitizer. The surge in demand depleted the shelves of local grocery stores. Sales in February surged as much as 80% over the previous year’s purchase of hand sanitizer. But the disruption of this magnitude not only affects local availability, it sends a ripple effect up the distribution channel. That ripple drains the inventories of top manufacturers and also their suppliers.
Fortunately, a crisis can also bring out the best in individuals. Case in point, local distilleries across the nation have become a new source of hand sanitizer. And the majority, while focusing on production for local hospitals and first responders, are making limited amounts available to their communities.
Can local distilleries offset the disruption? Not likely, especially in the long run. But they are having an impact by helping to flatten the demand curve until major producers and their suppliers can successfully ramp up production. And that is happening. Last week Gojo Industries announced that beginning March 28, 2020, the company “will only ship product intended for critical prioritized end-users, as determined by the federal government.” The company spokesperson said they were following measures invoked by the Defense Production Act.
Many distilleries throughout New England are stepping up to the challenge. One of those distilleries is Silo Distillery, in Windsor, Vermont. Erin Bell, Silo’s production manager, said that they started making sanitizer several weeks ago at the request of a local restaurant. But as the crisis deepened, she and the owners recognized a growing need within the general community.
Silo then started distributing sanitizer to the local police station and first responders as well as area hospitals and nursing homes. “We felt a civic responsibility to help our community however we can,” Bell said when interviewed by her alma mater Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
What is inspiring about this story is that Silo has been doing this free of charge! Can they continue to provide such a service free of charge, obviously not! But in an article in the “Valley News,” Bell said, “They are going to try to keep this going for as long as we can,” Bell said.
Erin Bell and Silo Distillery are doing their part, and I am asking members of the Upper Valley Whisky Society to pitch in and help out as well. Silo has set up a GoFundMe page to help support their efforts. If you are in a position to help, please consider donating to this effort. I know the folks at Silo and the residents of the Upper Valley will be very appreciative.