Virus fears drive export boom for Australian hand sanitiser manufacturer

By Belinda Willis

Hand sanitiser orders are exploding for a South Australian manufacturer as the threat of coronavirus empties supermarket shelves of the product around the world.

Artav Australia has struggled to meet skyrocketing demand from Hong Kong and Chinese distributors for both its sanitiser and its hospital grade disinfectant.

“The main supply channels are demanding from us as much as we can supply,” managing director Anthony Taverna said.

“We just sent out a 40-foot container this morning filled with about 25,000 one litre bottles of high-grade disinfectant and another container is being filled at the moment.

“Before now we’d only be supplying a few hundred bottles a month.”

Hand sanitisers and face masks are selling out at stores globally as consumers try to protect themselves from the spread of the virus.

At Artav Australia’s Adelaide factory, one production line usually used for hair and beauty products is being converted for its Dispel hand sanitising gel.

Another production shift also has been added for manufacturing and new staff members have swelled numbers at the factory to 60.

Taverna, whose father Arturo is well-known for running up to 30 hair salons throughout South Australia in his heyday, said the company was already registered in the Chinese market before the virus outbreak but mainly sold hair and beauty products.

“Now they want to buy products from Australia rather than China because the standards are a lot higher and the cleanliness of our water is guaranteed,” Taverna said.

The factory has a reverse osmosis water filter plant with UV sterilisation that can produce about 25,000 litres of water a day as a base for the products.

Taverna said the struggle at the moment was in meeting demand, with production reliant on the sourcing of bottles, caps and some ingredients.

“I’ve got a customer in China who has asked me to repackage the sanitiser into one million bottles in a 125ml size, it’s a personal care travel size,” he said.

“I have to source bottles but that will probably happen in the next few weeks along with the acceptance of paperwork to get approval in China, our brand and formula is already approved.”

Taverna works in the family-owned business along with his brother Andrew, who is a director, while his father Arturo remains chairman.

The company was started by Arturo in the 1950s grew to be one of the best- known brands in the state with hair salons in most shopping centres.

Arturo Taverna expanded into hair care products to use in his own salons under the Natural Look brand, gradually selling to salons nationally and then exporting to New Zealand.

Anthony Taverna joined the company along with his brother Andrew and exports into the Asian market opened up after the two attended a trade show in Hong Kong.

Taverna said beauty products were added to the line, the company being the first to manufacture professional spray tanning solutions in Australia.

It was during the Global Financial Crisis that the company decided to restructure away from the salon business and to focus more on its growing product range.

“A few years back we started to supply products to hair salons to meet a demand for a few cleaning and sanitary products,” he said.

Now Taverna said it was satisfying to know the company was manufacturing locally a high quality product in huge demand.

“The more we talk about it with different people the more it’s satisfying to know it’s being put to a good purpose,” he said.

“The more we can supply of this, it will be beneficial hopefully in the control of things.”

This article originally appeared at The Lead SA.

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