Alcohol producers stepped up to support the industry and community during the COVID-19 lockdown

John Timonthy, CEO POrtman Group

The world continues to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and this trying time saw alcohol producers big and small play their part to support frontline healthcare workers, the industry and local communities impacted by the closure of pubs and bars during lockdown.

The alcohol industry was quick to formulate its response to the pandemic, reacting to the urgent shortage of hand sanitiser and disinfectant. Many producers made their ethanol supply immediately available for the production of these products. To date, our members produced over 1.3 million litres of high-strength alcohol. That’s enough to fill over 27 million bottles of hand sanitiser, meaning almost half the UK population could have a bottle each. In further support of the pandemic relief effort, our members spent at least £13 million to directly support people impacted by COVID-19, this includes local communities and those working in the hospitality industry.

The efforts shown by producers and groups across the industry is truly commendable and has made a valuable impact during these unprecedented and challenging times.

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.
  • AsahiAcross the world, Asahi has invested in the development of hand sanitisers. In the UK, they have donated 5,000 face masks and 1,500 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’.
  • BacardiGlobally, 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 million 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’.In the UK alone, Diageo has pledged £35m, as part of its ‘Raising the Bar’ campaign, to help outlets reopen in line with the new guidance, this has involved sending out tens of thousands of kits containing PPE.
  • 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 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.
  • Thatchers: To support frontline workers in the West Country, Thatchers donated 15,000 bottles of alcohol-free cider. They also launched a £1million pledge in support of the hospitality industry and were active in their local community throughout lockdown, supporting neighbours with local deliveries of groceries and assisting in the local school meals delivery service.

The Scotch Whisky Association made a considerable contribution in the effort to produce more hand sanitiser – we will cover their work further in a later blog post.

Other trade bodies also played their part in co-ordinating support for the hospitality industry and workers impacted by the prolonged shutdown. The Wine and Spirits Trade AssociationSociety of Independent Brewers and National Association of Cider Makers have all 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 many vital actions taken to date. Producers and trade organisations continue to work tirelessly to support those who need it most. 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.