Bellarine Brewing Company in Victoria has made a habit of diversifying, and its latest pivot to hand sanitiser is now being made permanent.
Whilst brewers across the country invested in making hand sanitiser during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to use materials and keep brewers engaged, many have now returned to what they do best – making beer.
Bellarine however, under the direction of co-founder Tim Page-Walker, has invested in its sanitiser capabilities for the long term after launching its Surf Coast Sanitiser brand during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“In the last few years we have invested heavily in equipment. First we moved from bottling-only to adding a canning line, which worked for a range of carbonated and still products, both hard and soft formats, and now we have a tunnel pasteuriser that has given us the capability to produce an even wider range of products including plant milk coffee beverages, at speed,” Page-Walker explained.
“And then 2020 arrived and no-one could have predicted the turn things would take. With COVID-19 our order book dried up overnight.
“We were determined to find a way to keep our business running, keep jobs for Geelong and help the community in any way we could so along came our new product, Surf Coast Sanitiser.”
Despite vaccines now being made available worldwide, a resurgence in Greater Sydney over the weekend and a greater focus on health and hygiene will no doubt see the market remain solid, but Bellarine has already reaped the rewards of the successful pivot.
Earlier this year Bellarine announced that a planning application had been lodged to develop neighbouring warehouses to keep up with the growth of its multiple product ranges that extend beyond beer.
Page-Walker was quoted as saying that without the move to sanitiser during COVID-19, the business would not have had the cash flow to invest in the expansion.
“Our repeat customers are schools, restaurants and cafes and of course retail,” explained Page-Walker.
“It’s still doing well because we focus on supplying 5-litre refills to existing containers which reduces plastic waste overall.
“This was overlooked originally by many in the market and we made a conscious effort to try and find a more enviro-friendly option for people.
“This, combined with our strict adherence to the World Health Organisation recipe, gave us a leg up on others and means we can provide to medical and health professionals, knowing our product would keep them safe.
“Demand has definitely slowed but it’s a product we will continue to make as long as there is a demand.”
The brewery was founded on the Bellarine Peninsula in 2007 by Tim and Alex Page-Walker, in partnership with the Bellarine Estate Winery.
It contract brewed in its early days but in 2010 the team purchased its brewery equipment and beer began to be brewed on-site at the winery.
In 2014 the brewery outgrew its winery home and relocated to a site in South Geelong, which the Page-Walkers called a “turning point” for the business with bigger brewing capacity and the opportunity to diversify away from beer too, including the ready-to-drink category with its cold brews and espresso martinis.
Despite the success of its non-beer lines, Page-Walker said he could never see them concluding brewing operations.
“We rely on word of mouth and I don’t ever see the day I don’t brew beer. It’s funny, we don’t see ourselves as being the old hands but we’ve been around for 15 or so years which in craft beer is pretty ancient.”
In future, as well as focusing on hand sanitiser, Page-Walker said that he wanted to continue to diversify its product range.
“Non-alcoholic drinks are getting bigger and we are really busy with seltzers as well. I’m seeing a real focus on health, whether it’s a hard or soft drinks,” he said.