cooper king production

Yorkshire gin maker swaps production to hand sanitiser after help from University of Hull

A Yorkshire gin and whisky distillery backed by the University of Hull has swapped production to hand sanitiser to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Cooper King Distillery, founded by Chris Jaume and Abbie Neilson in 2016, received support in its early years from the SparkFund, a grants programme for SMEs delivered by the University.

The business, which now supplies leading retailers including Harvey Nichols and Ocado, was hit hard by the outbreak of Coronavirus, and lost around 85 per cent of its trade overnight.

Chris and Abbie took the bold decision to switch production from gin to hand sanitiser, to play their part in tackling the spread of COVID-19.

Products are sold to individuals and businesses, with profits being donated to the NHS and health organisations in the form of free sanitiser.

Mr Jaume said: “Business was booming, then COVID-19 hit. We woke up on Monday, March 16 to an 85 per cent overnight loss of trade. We spent the following 24 hours putting in place emergency finance plans.

“We then received a number of enquiries from the public and the front line as to whether we could produce hand sanitiser after seeing a news story of another distillery down south doing something similar.

“We quickly understood there was – and still is – a huge national shortage of sanitiser, and that we could step up to help out. Being a lean an agile company, we researched, developed and produced the first batch with a five-day turnaround.

“This was a big undertaking – we repurposed equipment, sourced materials – but we did it and donated our entire 1st batch the following day to our local community and front-line staff.”

cooper king sanitiser

Cooper King Distillery, based near York, has to date produced around 1,000 litres of sanitiser for the public, A&E departments, ICU units and mountain rescue organisations across the country.

The business was forced to move quickly after seeing its customer base diminish overnight, but is now busier than ever.

Mr Jaume said: “For us it made sense to do it, because we’re not just focussed on our environmental responsibilities – the entire distillery runs on 100 per cent green energy and we plant woodland for every bottle of gin sold - but our social responsibilities too.

“The demand for sanitiser has been huge, and we feel proud knowing we are doing our bit to support the NHS and health organisations during these turbulent times.”

Cooper King Distillery turned to the University’s SparkFund in its early years, as it looked to scale up its operations.

Funding provided by the University, through the European Regional Development Fund, helped the distillery buy a second vacuum gin still.

The move enabled the company to develop new products without having to halt production of its current range – a move which Mr Jaume said was pivotal in helping the business grow.

He said: “Bringing a second vacuum still into operation has allowed us to considerably expand our research and development capability, without impacting production of our core range of products.

“We have some exciting trial distillations lined up, including fresh lemongrass which was grown here on site, and produce from Tommy Bank’s Michelin-starred restaurant, the Black Swan at Oldstead, whom we regularly collaborate with.”

SparkFund is an innovation support and grants programme delivered by the University of Hull, with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It can help SMEs move their business forward through Innovation and Research and Development.

Pauline Mitchell, programme manager at SparkFund, said: “We are very pleased to be able to support Cooper King in their effort to support key sectors in fighting the Coronavirus and shortage of hand sanitiser.

“It’s the mark of a great company when they are able to adapt their thinking and processes so quickly to help in the National response.”

You can find out more about Cooper King by visiting its website.

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