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Written by John Timothy, Portman Group Chief Executive

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

At the start of the pandemic, producers of all sizes were quick to switch production lines to provide alcohol for hand sanitiser and disinfectant and so far, our members have produced enough alcohol for these purposes to fill around 10,000 bathtubs.

We applaud the solidarity and efforts shown by 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:

  • Aston Manor Cider: A longstanding commitment to Grocery Aid who have launched a dedicated COVID-19 Fund. The fund is backed by £1.5m to provide enhanced support for grocery colleagues on Mental Health, Bereavement Financial Assistance and Crisis Grants.
  • Asahi: Across the world, Asahi has invested in the development of hand sanitisers. In the UK, they have donated 5,000 face masks and 1,5000 gloves and products (including low and no alcohol) to several thousand hospitals, care homes and community facilities. They have partnered with the National Emergencies Trust and committed to match-fund donations made by consumers up to £50,000 alongside committing a percentage of their online sales per case of Meantime product to their charity partner ‘Only a Pavement Away’.
  • 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-FormanIn the UK, Brown-Forman have donated to the Drinks Trust COVID-19 Fund and launched a ‘virtual tip jar’ to support the Drinks Trust. They have also launched ‘The Lost Shift’ competition for bartenders who are currently unable to work due to the pandemic and have partnered with Healthy Hospo to launch ‘The Lockdown Lowdown’ to help support bartenders around the world maintain overall health and wellbeing during the lockdown.
  • Budweiser Brewing GroupIn the UK, they have distributed free of charge more than 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser and disinfectant to the Metropolitan Police, Gwent Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. They have also gifted products (including low and no alcohol) to frontline workers. Meanwhile, their ‘Save Pub Life’ campaign which allows pub goers to purchase a gift card to use at a later date and so far they have match-funded more than £824,000 to the trade and their Bud Light brand is keeping people connected with the UK’s largest virtual pub quiz.
  • CarlsbergGlobally, 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, they have frozen certain payments for the on-trade, donated 580HL of alcohol from their Kent brewery to making hand sanitisers, and launched the ‘Love My Local’ platform which enables pubs, bars and restaurants to set up to offer takeaway food and drink. They have also made £10,000 available for the Northamptonshire Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to help the local community and donating bottled beers – including alcohol free – to health care workers in Northampton.
  • DiageoGlobally, Diageo has pledged to donate up to 2 million of litres of alcohol to create more than 8 million bottles of hand sanitiser to help protect key frontline healthcare workers, including 500,000 litres in the UK and Ireland. Diageo has also donated £1 billion to support the wages of bartenders in UK pubs and bars and is offering free training to hospitality workers through the ‘Diageo Learning for Life: Virtual Academy’.
  • HeinekenIs supporting its 2,500 leased Star Pubs and Bars by suspending the collection of rent and associated charges. They are also providing support to grassroots communities through the ‘Heineken Community Fund’ in partnership with Neighbourly.com to help vulnerable people up and down the country.
  • Mast-JägermeisterIn Germany, Mast-Jäegermeister has donated 50,000 litres of alcohol for the production of disinfectant. In the UK, Jägermeister UK has made significant donations to the Drinks Trust Covid Relief Fund including through the Livery Emergency Action Fund.
  • Pernod RicardWithin the UK they have so far pledged around 200,000 litres of hand sanitiser to the NHS and local community groups. They have donated £250,000 to the Drinks Trust, through Chivas Brothers they have donated £300,000 to NHS Charities Together, donated £25,000 to the Moray Emergency Relief Fund. Pernod Ricard has also partnered with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust o offer Level 1 Spirits courses online for free.
  • SHS Drinks: To help those severely impacted by the pandemic, SHS Drinks have provided 14 foodbanks and local charities with monetary donations. This has aided the collation of care packages for households and vulnerable groups within the community. As part of their ‘Wellness Wednesday’ employee health & wellbeing campaign they have provided guidance, support and information resources to promote responsible drinking during the pandemic.

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 AssociationSociety 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.