Japanese Breweries Work to Produce Strong Alcohol for Sanitiser as Stocks Run Low

Brewing companies in Japan are repurposing their alcohol to produce sanitiser to help in the fight against COVID-19

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Breweries across Japan have started to produce high-alcohol content liquids to use as a substitute for alcohol-based sanitiser which is currently low in stock during the coronavirus pandemic.

Local companies’ innovation welcomed by medical profession

President of Kikusui Sake Co. in Kochi Prefecture, Kazuki Haruta, wanted to help in the effort to fight the coronavirus and came up with an idea of how his company could contribute. With large quantities of raw materials at their disposal, the brewing company decided to make a spirit with 77 per cent alcohol content.

The company has since been inundated with over 10,000 orders and enquiries about the product since it went on sale. “I was surprised by how many enquiries we received from hospitals and medical staff as well,” Haruta said, despite the product being geared towards general consumers.

Other breweries are taking similar action after customers expressed interest in sanitiser alternatives. Meiri Shurui Co. in Ibaraki Prefecture began selling a spirit with 65 per cent alcohol content while Wakatsuru brewery in Toyama Prefecture has released a product with 77 per cent alcohol.

Beverage maker Suntory Holdings Ltd. is set to provide hospitals with free alcohol-based disinfectants later this month to tackle the shortage. A Suntory spokesperson said, “We want to cooperate even a little at a time when demand and supply are tight for rubbing alcohol.”

While Osaka-based subsidiary, Suntory Spirits Ltd., is producing alcohol distilled at 95 per cent for use in hospitals and nursing homes. However, the company is yet to determine what quantity it can provide.

mass-produced spirits with an alcohol content of 70 per cent or over are considered a dangerous substance under Japan’s fire protection laws

Government recognises the need for sanitising alternative

In March, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare indicated that medical facilities could use drinks with an alcohol content of between 70 and 83 per cent as an alternative to sanitisers if stocks ran out.

Then, on April 10, the health ministry approved the use of high concentration alcoholic beverages for sanitising purposes at medical and nursing facilities and eased regulations around production.

To dilute 95 per cent alcohol with water, upgrades to factory equipment are necessary as mass-produced spirits with an alcohol content of 70 per cent or over are considered a dangerous substance under Japan’s fire protection laws.

Sanitiser manufacturers also increase production

As demand for their product increased, sanitiser manufacturers have also been doing everything they can to provide sanitiser for those in need. Kenei Pharmaceutical Co. in Osaka has been operating its factories round the clock and Kao Corp. has increased its output twentyfold.

Even though the government plans to provide subsidies to help companies expand and upgrade their equipment, being able to bridge the gap between supply and demand is still a long way off.

Are you aware of other businesses that have adapted production to fight the COVID-19 outbreak? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by Catherine McGuinness

Writer and Journalist with a love for all things Japan.

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