With a bottle of hand sanitiser now more rare than hen’s teeth, a family-owned business in Bromyard has launched its own Two Cousins brand.
Marches Bottling and Packaging has secured a substantial order from Herefordshire Council for the first run of its new hand sanitiser, while the rest will be sold online direct to the public.
Marches director Sue Vaughan said: “We will be selling two one-litre bottles of our Two Cousins sanitiser, delivered by courier to the customer’s door, for £35 delivered.
“We are encouraging the public to refill existing soap/sanitiser dispensers they have at home using our one litre bottles. Sustainability is core to our business and we encourage the re-use of smaller bottles, often disposed of after single use.”
“We want to make a small profit so we can keep our business going during these extraordinarily tough times, but we also want to do our bit to help. That’s why we are not charging people silly prices and we are supplying the local authority at a significant discount.”
The bottling operation runs alongside the family’s Celtic Marches cider business. As well as bottling their own range of ciders and perries, the firm handles bottling, canning, kegging and packaging for other businesses locally and nationally.
“We have 25 people working across the two businesses full-time, part-time and on contract, and we want to preserve those jobs and keep the businesses going over the coming weeks and months,” said Sue.
“Our operations director, Chris Palmes asked what we could do to try and keep the business running, I suggested making hand sanitiser as a joke and he said ‘Yes, we can do it!’ So away we went. We have built our business with the ability to react and adapt quickly.
“My cousin, Kate Turner, and her family run a gin distillery in the Marches – Penrhos Spirits – and she was able to supply the ethanol that we needed. That’s why we are selling the sanitiser under both our brands as “Two Cousins”.
“Finding the ethanol was one problem – it’s in very short supply at the moment – but the other was trying to get hold of litre plastic bottles. As well as the high demand, the supply chains from manufacturers in Europe have been badly disrupted.”
Despite the difficulties, the team at Marches have got production up and running with Chris Palmes filling the bottles by hand. They have set up an online store through Shopify to help cater for the expected high demand.
“We’ve had a lot of help to get this off the ground,” said Sue Vaughan.
Worcestershire-based Thursfields Solicitors helped the business develop its new offer.
“The team at Thursfields Solicitors have provided constant support on a whole range of issues surrounding running a bottling business in the drinks industry, while the local HMRC people sorted all the permissions and tweaks to our licenses in just two or three days – it normally takes up to five weeks,” said Sue.
Jon Clifford, director and head of agricultural and rural affairs at Thursfields Solicitors, said: “We have a long-standing relationship with Sue and everyone at Marches Bottling. They are a great example of a small family-run business that is thinking outside the box to find a way forward in these incredibly difficult times.
“We are proud to help support them and the many other rural businesses looking to diversify as they try to sustain their operations and retain the workers who rely on them. It is vitally important that companies like theirs can rely on the continued support of professional services like those from Thursfields.”