With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), stores are having difficulty keeping hand sanitizer in stock. Even as major manufacturers such as Purell try to ramp up production, store shelves are emptied as quickly as they can be restocked, and some third-party Amazon sellers offer their wares at vastly inflated prices.
In response, some small distilleries began to use parts of their distillate to create hand sanitizer to try to meet the urgent need. At first, there were strict regulations that held back production, but many of these laws were quickly waived so that manufacturing could begin. On March 18th, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau allowed distilleries to produce hand sanitizer without the need to obtain permits or bonds. They also permitted beverage distilled spirit plants to produce products consistent with WHO guidelines without first submitting their formula, and they waived federal excise tax if denatured ethanol is used. These changes are in effect until at least June 30, 2020.
Similarly, the FDA affirms that “the agency does not intend to take action against manufacturing firms that prepare alcohol-based hand sanitizers for consumer use and for use as health care personnel hand rubs” during this health emergency. Even in the midst of this great need, safety standards are still important, and the efforts of manufacturers who already know how to maintain food and medical grade standards will help prevent incidents such as the sale of a homemade sanitizer that allegedly caused burns on a child.
Once the legal obstacles have been removed, manufacturers may still need to obtain some key ingredients. This can often be a challenge. For example, Caledonia Spirits in Vermont has already made 1,500 containers of sanitizer for first responders, and Vermont will be paying for the raw materials in order to help them produce their second batch. However, the distillery team is reaching out to other businesses for glycerol and small bottles to meet its goals. Another distillery in Waco, Texas, has its production temporarily halted because the FDA had questions about the classification of one of their ingredients, even with the relaxed codes.
Distillers also find that they need to seek out information about the process involved in making hand sanitizer. The industry is working hard to share resources such as webinars and online guides, and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) has held daily meetings to find best practices for manufacturers to follow. Some of the ACSA’s many resources include regulatory guidelines, information on loans available, and advice on how to remain engaged with customers while spirit production is paused.
Some companies are selling these units of hand sanitizer, some are donating them, while others are doing a bit of both: donating some to nonprofits and medical workers while selling others in order to meet expenses.
Distilleries are not the only ones who are trying to quickly retool their equipment to meet demand. LVMH, which runs the factories that create perfumes for many designer brands, recently announced that they would begin making hand gel. In New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would begin producing 100,000 bottles of its own hand sanitizer using a prison workforce. Companies that are looking to transition quickly can still refer to the ASCA guidelines for suggestions, as well as consulting their own respective trade associations.
Filling Equipment Specifics
If you want to switch over your operations in order to make hand sanitizer during these times, these are the technical details you need to know:
- First, inquire with local code enforcement to find out what hazardous controls you need. The requirements are set by your local authorities, and they will be different depending on your location.
- The best way to bottle the sanitizer is with an automatic piston filler or pressure gravity filler. However, because the product is flammable, the filler must have explosion proof controls, which will cause production to take longer.
- If you need a faster output, you can fill with a tabletop piston filler. Your production speeds will be slower, but because the tabletop piston filler is fully pneumatic, no explosion-proof controls will be needed.
The learning curve may be steep, but manufacturers who can transition to making hand sanitizer will find a high demand and an appreciative market.
Let Apex Help You
Apex offers all of our clients customized solutions to their filling needs. Call us at 219-575-7493 or visit our page here to discuss the best equipment choices for you.