How are beverage brands coping in the face of COVID-19?

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

Global spirits companies are donating their alcohol for use in hand sanitizer production. Pic: Getty/Zephyr18
Global spirits companies are donating their alcohol for use in hand sanitizer production. Pic: Getty/Zephyr18

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, Guinness, Beer, Distilled beverage, Juice, Starbucks, Dunkin' donuts

Amid quarantines, lockdowns and cancellations, beverage companies are doing what they can to stay afloat as well as help out in the community. We round-up the latest news from brands dealing with the crisis.

Now that the novel coronavirus is a worldwide pandemic, it's beginning to affect local economies and day-to-day life. Bars and restaurants are struggling with low foot traffic and closures, while supermarkets can’t keep their shelves stocked.

Here's a snapshot of some of the beverage companies which are taking action in response to the new reality.

Guinness gives back

St. Patrick’s Day came and went this year without much fanfare, due to the cancellation of parades and closures of bars and pubs worldwide. But the team at Guinness kept the spirit alive with the announcement that it is committing USD $500,000 through its Guinness Gives Back Fund to help its communities in the US.

It also set up a €1.5m fund in Ireland to support bar staff facing reduced hours as well as vulnerable senior citizens. Its iconic Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is currently closed until at least March 29.

And a £1m fund will be set up to compensate bartenders’ wages across Great Britain, starting March 23. Pubs and bars can apply for assistance on Diageo’s benefits website​, with the maximum funding per outlet being £600.

Additionally, Diageo is offering complimentary Diageo Bar Academy Training Courses for anyone working in the drinks trade--including virtual training and learning modules for bartenders.

“We know that St. Patrick’s Day feels different this year. But we’ve been around for 260 years and learned over time that we’re pretty tough when we stick together. However you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, stay safe and be good to one another,”​ Guinness said.

Homemade hand sanitizer

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the US announced it is waiving provisions of internal revenue law with regard to distilled spirits, allowing automatic authorizations to distilled spirits companies who want to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers to address demand. The measure is approved through June 30, 2020.

With the product becoming rare to find on store shelves, the Williamsburg-based New York Distilling Company is producing its own for use in the New York beverage industry.

The company said it is using its undiluted Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin to create bulk hand sanitizer, using a home recipe based on CDC recommendations--two parts uncut gin with one part aloe vera gel. The botanicals in the gin give it a scent of juniper berries, citrus peels and spices.

While it’s not available for commercial sale, the New York Distilling Company is offering it for free to select bars, restaurants and retailers in the area that it has existing relationships with, “as a way of offering solidarity, support, and friendship for the local hospitality industry.”

Other companies around the US are following suit. Pernod Ricard USA is producing sanitizer at all of its US manufacturing sites, including in Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Texas. It will be donated to those in need, and Pernod Ricard USA is working with the US government on plans for distribution.

Jameson, a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, will donate $500,000 to the US Bartenders Guild (USBG) emergency relief fund. And Amass Spirits is producing an Alcohol-Based Botanic Hand Wash, and 10% of all sales will go to the USBG fund.

hand gin 2

BrewDog also announced via Instagram that it is manufacturing its own hand sanitizer in Europe, the ‘BrewGel Punk Sanitiser.’

“To help with the shortages, we have just started working on making hand sanitiser at our distillery in Scotland. We are determined to do everything we can to try and help as many people as possible stay safe. It's time to keep it clean,”​ BrewDog said.

London-based distillery 58 Gin has completely halted its gin production in order to focus on producing sanitizer, using its full capacity to produce 3,000 bottles in a first run. It will donate 10% of sales from the ‘Hand Gin-itizer’ to industry charity The Drinks Trust.

Keeping wine alive

Wine tasting rooms across California are shutting their doors in accordance with instructions from the state’s governor. But many are still offering shipping deals and sale codes to keep customers supplied and money coming in.

George Hamel, III, managing director at Hamel Family Wines, said “In times like these, we carry on knowing that we have the support of a resilient and united community. Our family and winery were at the heart of the 2017 Sonoma Valley wildfires, and through that experience learned that it's the difficult times that bring out the very best in people.”

Cam Baker, proprietor at Larkmead, said “Nature does not cease: bud break will come, grapes will ripen, and harvest will be here before we know it. Larkmead shall continue to produce world-class wines, with great care for health and safety. Ever onward!”

Dunkin' and Starbucks

In North America, both Dunkin’ and Starbucks are limiting service to drive-thru, carry-out and delivery orders only. To discourage customers from congregating in the coffee shops, furniture such as tables and chairs are being removed.

There are also reduced hours, occasional closures and modified layouts on a store-by-store basis. Dunkin’ is promoting its delivery partnership with Grubhub, and some Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations are closing indefinitely.

Rossann Williams, executive VP for Starbucks US and Canada, said “Every community’s needs are incredibly different. We want to make sure we play a constructive role by taking responsible actions, in partnership with the CDC and local public health authorities, so we can continue to do what’s right for our partners and customers.”

Dave Hoffmann, Dunkin' Brands CEO, said "As we navigate through the challenges of COVID-19, I want to reiterate our commitment to the health and safety of our guests, franchisees, employees, and the communities we serve. We are continuing our legacy of being there when people need us most by taking additional steps to be a safe and welcoming environment during all of this uncertainty.”

Sales on immunity

Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co is offering sale codes for its online store for its immune-boosting juice products. Customers can receive 45% off orders using the code IMMUNITY20, from now until March 29.

Natalie’s notes that the oranges, elderberries and ginger ingredients in its juices have unique health benefits, such as being rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation.

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