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Companies respond to hand sanitizer shortage

Products given to first responders, needy

Maui Brewing Co. CEO Garrett Marrero poses with some hand sanitizer made at his company along with Neil Hasegawa of Hasegawa General Store in Hana. Hasegawa picked up the sanitizer to share with the kupuna on the island’s windward side, Maui Brewing said. Maui Brewing Co. photo

Two Maui-based companies that normally produce alcoholic beverages are now also making hand sanitizer, a product that’s been in high demand and hard to get in Maui stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neither company is selling the hand sanitizers commercially yet, but they’re already making the products available to the people who need it most.

Maui Brewing Co., which has closed its restaurants due to the pandemic and now only offers takeout, is giving sanitizer away with a purchase of a to-go item at either its Kihei and Lahaina locations. It is also donating sanitizer to first responders and the needy.

In Kula, Hawaii Sea Spirits, the makers of Ocean Organic Vodka, has also started making hand sanitizer, which will be made available to first responders initially.

Shay Smith, founder and president of Hawaii Sea Spirits, said after first responders are given the sanitizer, “then we will act quickly to establish sensible and effective ways to help the larger community. Right now, we are working to assess the needs of Maui, and we will respond with whatever we can.”

Smith also thanked Maui Babe, Mokulele Airlines, the Maui Food Bank and Ali’i Kula Lavender for their participation in the efforts.

Ocean Vodka Master Distiller Bill Scott said that “the alcohol-based sanitizer that we are making conforms exactly to the recommendations from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The commitment to quality that we have for our brands has been carried through to this sanitizer,” Scott said. “We went to great lengths to source the correct grades of ingredients. The ethyl alcohol we made for this is actually certified organic. Our community is in need, and we are trying to respond as best we can.”

In a news release, Hawaii Sea Spirits said it anticipates providing the product at no charge to those in need and to others who are being affected by the shortage.

Maui Brewing’s hand sanitizer is a liquid that is generated during whiskey and gin distillation in its Kupu Spirits distillery in Kihei. Government guidelines are also being followed for the sanitizer, which is being proofed to 70 percent ethyl alcohol, not for human consumption, Marsha Hansen, marketing manager for Maui Brewing, said in an email.

Hansen said the sanitizer is not for retail sale and that they are donating it primarily to local first responders and some nonprofits.

“We prefer to donate to organizations in need, and they can get it to individuals on a large scale,” Hansen said. “We have currently donated over 50 gallons, with that number growing daily.”

Maui Brewing is giving away sanitizer to its takeout customers, but they must bring their own clean, sealable container of up to 16 ounces.

The company is also working with various other local sanitizer producers to help it continue to make their offerings available for the retail trade.

Hansen said they do not have and do not currently plan to develop packaging.

She said the idea to offer the hand sanitizer came on March 19, as Maui Brewing CEO and founder Garrett Marrero decided to close the restaurants for the health and safety of customers and employees and offer takeout.

He also wanted to offer a benefit for the community, which ended up being the sanitizer, Hansen said.

Both the Kihei and Lahaina restaurants can only give one per customer. The Kihei location operates from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, while the Lahaina location operates 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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