A company owned by a Mercer alumnus has altered its production line to fill a crucial need. Hand sanitizer has been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Pretoria Fields Collective is now making it to help with the supply shortage.
Dr. Tripp Morgan, a 2001 Mercer School of Medicine graduate and vascular surgeon in Albany, opened the brewery in 2017. Pretoria Fields craft beer can now be found throughout Georgia and Alabama.
The Pretoria Fields taproom in Albany closed in March in accordance with health regulations. With no sales, layoffs and halted operations seemed likely for the brewery — but then, a new purpose was found.
Dr. Morgan said the idea came from his wife, who shared a social media post with him about a distillery making hand sanitizer. Pretoria Fields also runs a hemp extraction facility and manufactures health products, so Dr. Morgan consulted their compounding pharmacist, Will Coley, to find out how to make hand sanitizer on a large scale. He was able to secure the necessary state approval for production within a few hours rather than the usual time frame of weeks.
Pretoria Fields started out with a 50-gallon batch of hand sanitizer, packaged in 8-ounce bottles. That supply was gone in just a couple hours, with some bottles donated to first-responders and the rest sold in front of the brewery. Since then, the team has ironed out the logistics to source and produce larger quantities.
“We went from possibly laying everybody off to hiring 10 employees to help bottle, label and ship,” Dr. Morgan said. “It went from a nightmare of wondering what we were going to do to keep everything open to really giving everybody a purpose to help the community and helping everybody keep their jobs.”
Over the past seven weeks, Pretoria Fields has sold more than 40,000 gallons of hand sanitizer in 8-ounce and 1-gallon bottles, he said. The products can be found in grocery and convenience stores where Pretoria Fields beer is sold as well as online. The company has filled big orders for area hospitals and given a lot of the product away.
Dr. Morgan said this new venture wouldn’t have been possible without the great team at Pretoria Fields Collective.
“There’s a new normal, post-COVID. We’ll continue to do it as long as there’s a need,” he said. “I never would have thought seven weeks ago that I’d be in the hand sanitizer business.”