Sunday, 28 February 2021

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Coromandel distillery is bottling hand-sanitiser instead of gin

When exploring an idea for a boutique distillery on the Coromandel, Dr Paul Schneider never envisaged the role he and his partner, Daniela Suess, were going to play in combating a global health pandemic.

Paul and Daniela, both environmental scientists, recently embarked on a new business venture producing premium spirits using mostly local produce. However, for the past three weeks, instead of delightful gins such as Damson Plum and wood-aged Manuka, the still at Coromandel Distilling Company in Thames is now churning out something currently far more sought after on the Peninsula and beyond - high quality hand sanitiser.

“We opened at the end of last year and we were just about to get some distribution deals going when it all came to a standstill,” Paul says.

The couple moved to Thames 13 years ago taking up roles with the Department of Conservation. “We’ve both done other things since, I went back to do my PhD and we now have an 11-year-old daughter,” Paul says. “We wanted to start our own business and when we set about thinking of ideas, distilling seemed to fit the bill, it has that combination of nature and science that appealed to us.”

Their passion for experimentation led the couple to produce their unique flavours - including a Coromandel Dry Gin - which have been popular during cellar door sales as part of the regular Thames Markets - and they have been working with marketers and designers around branding and distribution. However, with currently zero demand from key markets like restaurants and bars, Paul and Daniela saw an opportunity to pivot their business and also support the local community’s efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“We are in a unique position in that we already hold a licence to manufacture and handle alcohol and so, after some discussions to see if there would be a demand, we have adapted to develop and produce a hand sanitiser,” Paul says.

An initial order from Thames-Coromandel District Council has been followed up with enquiries from medical centres, schools and businesses right across the Peninsula and Paul says scaling up to meet demand has been a whirlwind. “We had to try and source containers and some of those were going to take three weeks to arrive,” he says. “We also had to get labels organised which of course need to be compliant and also look reasonably good. I suppose being a fledgling company our plans weren’t so set in stone, we were flexible enough to be able to adapt. It has been a challenge, but it has also been very exciting.”

Ensuring as many people who need it can purchase the product, is important to Paul. Sales are currently in five-litre bulk containers, 500ml spray bottles and 100ml plastic bottles and are open to individuals and families, as well as businesses and organisations. “We will try and look after as many people as we can, so if anyone has a particular need please get in touch with us and we will try our best to help,” he says.

A new division of the business has been created for the hand sanitiser, aptly named “Local Science.” While just Paul and Daniela currently work in the business, there may be a need to employ more staff if demand remains high.

“This is 100 per cent led by a desire to do our bit to help keep our community safe,” Paul says. “We already had the equipment here anyway and by selling directly to customers, we can keep our costs low and pass that on. When we looked at the prices being charged online, we found we could sell our hand sanitiser at least 50 per cent cheaper, which we are really pleased to be able to do. With an 80 per cent alcohol content, the quality is also much better than some of what is out there. This is something that is probably going to be required in the community for quite some time, so we’re happy to be able to help.”

Paul says the production of hand-sanitiser will continue for as long as the community needs it, even after Coromandel Distilling Company gin is back on the menu. “We will keep this going as a side operation as along as it is required,” he says.

The hand sanitiser is being sold under the brand name “Eliminator.” More information and online sales are available at www.localscience.co.nz.

Pictured: Dr Paul Schneider, co-owner of Coromandel Distilling Company in Thames, which has moved from producing gin to hand sanitiser in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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