March 20, 2020

Potato, corn vodka maker switches production to hand sanitizer

With bottles of hand sanitizer flying off retail shelves amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, distilleries are using their spirits to aid the supply.

One is Lansing, Michigan-based Michigrain, which utilizes excess potato starch from Better Made Snackfoods, to make its potato vodka, reported the Michigan Industry Potato Commission (MPIC).

Once Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered state bars and restaurants to only be able to serve takeout orders, Michigrain co-owner and Master Distiller Mike Bird considered temporarily shutting down operations. Instead, he opted to turn production into hand sanitizer using the alcohol on hand. Current production capabilities are about 500 gallons, or 40,000 bottles, per week.

Michigrain has been selling 4-ounce bottles of sanitizer at its Lansing location for $4 per bottle.

“We made the decision (March 12) to flip the switch to creating the sanitizer and sold about 10-20 bottles those first few days. However, this week people are buying buckets worth. It’s absolutely amazing.” Bird told MPIC.

Michigrain also uses sweet corn from a nearby co-op to make corn vodka.

CNN recently reported on other distilleries around the U.S. also producing hand sanitizer.