THE EXTRAORDINARY POWER OF ALCOHOL

The product that rose to the spotlight during the pandemic is now more than ever part of our daily life

When requests for alcohol from regular customers became unusually insistent in late February 2020, Edoardo Pasquali, head of the Alcohol Division of Caviro Extra, was pretty sure something unpredictable was about to happen.
They wanted up to four times as much as usual,” he says as we walk into the Caviro Extra plant in Faenza. He is telling me how alcohol is an agricultural product obtained from the ancient technique of fermentation and distillation of various raw materials such as molasses, cereals, and cellulose.
In order to satisfy clients, Caviro Extra has purification, dehydration, and denaturation systems that allow the processing of all types of alcohol.
Alcohol is a multipurpose product, one that is used in a variety of ways in a number of fields, from food to pharmaceuticals, from cosmetics to industrial chemicals, all the way to energy,” Pasquali explains. “And, last but not least, the alcohol we use at home, the famous pink bottle we can all picture.”

But let’s go back to February. In those days, alcohol was as hard to find as it was essential in fighting against Coronavirus: not only is it the best surface disinfectant, it is also the main component in both hand sanitizer and in sterilization and disinfection products.

Indeed alcohol is what nature has given us to disinfect ourselves and fight viruses and bacteria as ethyl alcohol is the enemy of microorganisms thanks to its denaturing effect on the proteins that make them. Also, it has a dissolving effect on the lipid membranes that protect these viruses and bacteria.

“Suddenly, demand skyrocketed because our customers were, in turn, hard-pressed to find alcohol by large retail companies, hospitals, pharmacies, and all those sectors that were on the front lines in the fight against this pandemic. Therefore we had to react immediately to meet this immense demand for alcohol, one that has never happened before in the history of the company,” says Pasquali.

But then the problem of finding the raw material arose as Italian alcohol production does not satisfy home demand and as such the country has been importing alcohol from abroad since the 1980s, i.e. since the sugar sector was dismantled thus drastically reducing production of molasses alcohol.

Caviro Extra is the first distillery in terms of ethyl alcohol production capacity in Italy. Because of this, it found itself in the spotlight during these trying times, having to make such a strategic asset available quickly and in large quantities. Still, it rose to the challenge and, during the pandemic’s peak months, it was able to handle and supply the Italian market with the highest volume of alcohol.

“We were able to meet the  demands of the Italian market, and this was possible because we are a large group. Thanks to this, we were able to find the raw material, store it in large quantities, and process it quickly and with great flexibility.”

But that is not all there is to the story: in the midst of the emergency, Caviro Extra was at the forefront even when it came to helping others, gifting alcohol to local pharmacies so they could produce disinfectants and to the field hospital set up by the Alpini (the Italian mountain infantry) in Bergamo, the epicentre of the disease.

Today that the emergency has passed and that the mountain of lees and marcs has almost disappeared, ready to rise again during the upcoming harvest, we look back on those spring days as a time of hard work and great satisfaction at the same time, happy at our customers’ gratitude and proud of working in a strong, well-structured team that boasts a long experience and has never lost sight of its values.

“Those were long, hard, stressful days but we worked untiringly, kept calm, and always tried to satisfy our customers.”

And from the alcohol distilled in the Faenza plant comes a new product: a hand sanitizing liquid made according to the WHO's suggestions, a simple formula that can be replicated even at home yet one that is incredibly effective thanks to the high percentage of alcohol (80%).

But what about the future? “I think that from now on alcohol will increasingly become part of our daily life as we have adopted habits we don’t want to give up and learned more about hygiene and disinfection.”

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