Diageo, which also makes Johnnie Walker whisky, said it would donate two million litres of alcohol from its spirits distilleries to help produce more than eight million 250ml bottles of hand sanitiser for frontline health workers.
Donations will be split across several countries, including the UK, Ireland, US, Italy, Australia, India, Brazil and Kenya.
Other spirits and wine producers have also started supplying alcohol for extra hand sanitiser needed to reduce the spread of coronavirus, known as Covid-19.
However, Diageo’s scale and reach means it can offer support to a number of different governments.
It said it would supply grain neutral spirit, which is a 96% ethyl alcohol mostly used to make gin and vodka, to hand sanitiser manufacturers.
‘This is the quickest and most effective way for us to meet the surging demand for hand sanitiser around the world,’ said Diageo’s CEO, Ivan Menezes.
‘Healthcare workers are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic and we are determined to do what we can to help protect them.’
The group will donate 500,000 litres of spirit in the US and India, with the same amount split across the UK and Ireland.
It will give 100,000 litres of spirit in Italy and Australia, where its Bundaberg Distilling Co will give ethanol to the Queensland state government.
In Brazil, Diageo’s Ypioca plant will supply 50,000 litres of spirit, and in Kenya, Diageo’s East Africa Breweries will ‘enable production of 135,000 litres of sanitiser’, the group said.
Last week, the owner of Absolut vodka and Jameson whiskey, Pernod Ricard, also said it would contribute to hand sanitiser efforts. It pledged 70,000 litres of alcohol in its home market of France and announced that distilleries in other markets, including the US, Ireland and Spain, would be made available for sanitiser production.
Pernod’s chairman and CEO, Alexandr Ricard, said, ‘By sharing our resources and making our production facilities available wherever they are needed, we are supporting our fellow citizens and local authorities.’
French luxury goods group LVMH has also switched production at some perfume facilities to hand sanitiser.
Spanish wine and spirits group Gonzalez Byass said it was offering up several production facilities to the Spanish government to make hand sanitiser.
Smaller distillers have also sought to re-purpose their operations in recent weeks. Small-scale gin distillers in the UK, including Bristol-based Psychopomp and Surrey-based Silent Pool Gin, were among those to have begun making sanitisers; the former was offering it in return for charity donations, with Silent Pool offering bottles to customers and distillery visitors.