Coronavirus: Alcohol producers are making a difference during this difficult time

By John Timothy, chief executive, The Portman Group 

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol producers of all sizes are playing their part in making donations to aid frontline healthcare workers and support those in the industry and local communities impacted by ongoing closures to contain the virus.

We applaud the efforts of all producers and groups across the industry to make a difference during this unprecedented and difficult time.

Just some of the actions taken by Portman Group members in response to COVID-19 include:

Asahi: Across the world, Asahi has invested in the development of hand sanitisers, whilst in Japan Asahi Group Holdings Ltd has donated 150 million yen’s worth of food & beverage products to social causes and facilities for vulnerable people. In the UK, Asahi has also supported NHS Trusts local to its London breweries in Greenwich and Chiswick.

Bacardi: Globally, Bacardi has a commitment to produce more than 1.1 million litres of hand sanitiser. In the UK, the Laverstoke Mill distillery in Hampshire is producing a small quantity of hand sanitizers to be donated to local doctors, chemists and care homes; whilst the Dewar distillery in Aberfeldy is helping to produce hand sanitisers for the Scottish Ambulance Association among other local community groups.

Brown-Forman: In the US, the Brown-Forman Corporation has donated $1 million to COVID-19 response funds, with donations to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation to support their COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund and to the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) Foundation Emergency Assistance Programme.

Budweiser Brewing Group: Across Europe, AB-InBev is producing 50,000 litres of ready-to-use disinfectant alcohol, using the surplus alcohol from its alcohol-free beers for European hospitals; and it is committed to producing and donating more as needed. AB InBev is also offering billboards in cities in Belgium and the Netherlands to reinforce public health preventative measures for those still commuting to work. Budweiser Brewing Group UK have donated 6,000 litres of hand sanitiser to the Metropolitan Police and have also launched the ‘Save Pub Life’ campaign to allow pub goers to purchase a gift card to use at a later date, with the company matching the funding the pub receives.

Carlsberg: Globally, the Carlsberg Foundations have donated DKK 95 million (approx. £11 million) in response to COVID-19, with recipients including three internationally recognised Coronavirus research teams. In the UK, the company has taken action to support the local community, making around £10,000 available for Northamptonshire Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Diageo: Globally, Diageo has pledged to donate up to two million of litres of alcohol to create more than eight million bottles of hand sanitiser to help protect key frontline healthcare workers, including 500,000 litres in the UK and Ireland. Diageo has also pledged £1 million to support the wages of bartenders in pubs and bars across Great Britain and is offering complimentary virtual training as the hospitality industry closes down to help tackle the virus.

Heineken: Is supporting its 2,500 leased Star Pubs and Bars by suspending the collection of rent and associated charges until at least the end of April, and is working to ensure uptake of the additional support made available by the UK Government.

Mast-Jäegermeister: In Germany, Mast-Jäegermeister has donated 50,000 litres of alcohol for the production of disinfectant. Furthermore, the Mast family has donated one million Euros to establish a solidarity fund for small local businesses in Wolfenbüttel, and, via the ‘Curt Mast Jägermeister Foundation’ have bought and donated bouquets to local medical staff to thank them for their great service for the community and to residents of local retirement homes.

Pernod Ricard: Globally, the company is aiding the production of hand sanitisers, including in France, Sweden, the US, Spain and Ireland. In the UK, Pernod Ricard has pledged an initial donation of 100,000 litre of ethanol to help bolster hand sanitiser and has donated £250,000 to The Drink Trust to support the drinks industry workforce. Pernod Ricard has also partnered with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust to offer Level 1 Spirits courses online for free.

To aid efforts, the Scotch Whisky Association have created an online portal to connect distillers who can produce high-strength ethanol and/or hand sanitiser with packagers, distributors and organisations who are in need of hand sanitiser. 

Other trade bodies are playing their part in co-ordinating support for the hospitality industry and workers effected by the prolonged shutdown. The Wine and Spirits Trade Association, Society of Independent Brewers and National Association of Cider Makers have created online hubs bringing together key pieces of advice for businesses, whilst the Campaign for Real Ale and SIBA have launched the ‘Pulling Together’ campaign to help consumers continue to support their local pubs and brewers.

Finally, the independent charity Drinkaware is encouraging consumers to drink in moderation and to be careful not to use alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety while in isolation.  

These are just some of the actions taken to date, with many producers committed to further steps in the days and weeks ahead.  Together, we will pull each other through this, and we encourage everyone to look out for each other and look after their own physical and mental health.

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