Ethanol shortage preventing P.E.I. skin-care company from filling large order of hand sanitizer

An Island skin-care company that’s now making hand sanitizer says an ethanol shortage is preventing it from filling a large order.

Quannessence Holistic Skincare, located in Summerside, transitioned into making hand sanitizer after hearing about a need for the product and wanting to help Islanders.

Sharon Quann, owner and president of Quannessence, said when the company was developing the product, it took into consideration that ethanol was hard to come by. 

“We did it in a pocket-sized 60 [millilitre] container so that we could reach a broader customer … because there’s a world shortage in ethanol packaging and ingredients,” she said.

“We tried to do it so that everybody could have a little, rather than a few having a lot.”

High demand for hand sanitizer

Quann said the company is able to meet its local needs, which will eventually include selling the hand sanitizer at Murphy’s pharmacies, but she said it recently received an order from one client for 4,500 litres of the product — which she said she’s unable to fill right now.

“Our problem is sourcing the ethanol,” she said.

“We’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. We have this amazing formula and amazing hand sanitizer, but we can’t source the ingredients as of yet.”

Quannessence Holistic Skincare transitioned into making hand sanitizer after hearing about a need for the product and wanting to help Islanders. (Submitted by Sharon Quann)

Health Canada said the ethanol shortage is due to the high demand for hand sanitizer country-wide.

Recent data by Stats Canada shows that sales of hand sanitizer in March were seven times higher than last March.  

Because of the shortage, Health Canada is temporarily allowing companies to use other types of ethanol, such as technical-grade ethanol — as long as national safety requirements are met.

‘We’ve really been collaborating’

Thora Christensen, the formulator and head of research and development at Quannessence, said the formula for the hand sanitizer is based on recommendations from the World Health Organization.

She said the company sources its ethanol from Greenfield Global in Ontario, but said in the last three weeks, it couldn’t get through to the producer because the company was so busy.

All of our products, we supply the highest-grade ingredients that we can.—Thora Christensen, Quannessence 

“Because we’re a small company it is hard to get the supply that we’re looking for,” she said.

Christensen said eventually the company reached out to Deep Roots Distillery, an Island business that’s also transitioned into making hand sanitizer, to help supply the product.

“We are competing businesses, but it hasn’t felt that way at all,” she said. 

“We’ve really been collaborating and helping each other out.”

Christensen said while Health Canada is allowing companies to now use technical-grade ethanol, her company will continue to use food-grade ethanol because it’s a higher-quality product.

“All of our products, we supply the highest-grade ingredients that we can,” she said.

Christensen said on Friday, her company finally got through to Greenfield Global, but she’s still waiting to hear whether Quannessence will be able to fulfil the large order of 4,500 litres of hand sanitizer. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

More COVID-19 news from CBC P.E.I.

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