Gin makers branch out into making hand sanitiser during crisis

Patrick and Sarah Saunders of Black Shuck Picture: BLACK SHUCK

Patrick and Sarah Saunders of Black Shuck Picture: BLACK SHUCK - Credit: Archant

A spirits maker has diversified into manufacturing hand sanitiser alongside its alcoholic drinks.

A Blush tasting panel for Black Shuck Picture: BLACK SHUCK

A Blush tasting panel for Black Shuck Picture: BLACK SHUCK - Credit: Archant

Patrick and Sarah Saunders started Black Shuck Gin in Fakenham back in 2011 and now both work for the family business full-time, having added fruit liqueurs to their range.

While on holiday early in February 2020 they became increasingly aware of the unfolding coronavirus crisis in China and felt it would inevitably reach the UK.

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They saw an opportunity to use their ethanol to make their own alcohol-based hand sanitiser, as they faced up to the likely loss in spirit sales due to the crisis.

While on holiday they spent their evenings researching approved methods, licences, equipment, bottles and other resources they needed to make it.

By the end of February, the couple had placed orders for 250ml and 500ml plastic bottles with spray and lotion pump dispensers and by early March they were in a position to launch a product which was fully approved and compliant.

“The advantage of being a small business is having autonomy across all areas,” said Sarah. “Decisions can be made and implemented quickly. This is crucial in the current economic climate which is changing at a rapid pace.”

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They were able to despatch the first hand sanitiser bottles at the beginning of March.

When bottles became short the company was able to persuade a supplier to scour his warehouse and within three days had secured more to enable production to continue uninterrupted.

To show its appreciation, Black Shuck sent 40 complimentary Black Shuck miniatures to the bottle company, and managed to secure a steady supply.

The team made the decision to sell only to key workers and businesses providing essential services in the community, so don’t sell the hand sanitiser via the website. However, there has been a “significant” increase in traffic to it, the firm said.

While the firm’s “usual” business plummeted by around 80% due to the crisis, its online sales have rocketed 10-fold during the crisis, they said.

The couple’s micro distillery has a workforce of four managing all aspects of the business. “The flip side to that is the joy of having complete autonomy,” said Patrick. “When changes are required they can be agreed and implemented very quickly. That has never been more important to us than in the last few weeks.”

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