A Cowbridge businessman has been honoured by the Queen with a British Empire Medal (BEM). 25-year-old Rhys Mallows, managing director of Mallows Bottling, repurposed his business to produce more than one million bottles of hand sanitiser during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ethanol – the alcohol base used to make sanitiser – was in short supply throughout Europe at the time, with countries like France, Spain and Italy stopping exports and retaining it for their domestic needs.
Rhys, a Financial Economics graduate of Exeter University, explained:
“When the pandemic broke, and supply chains struggled, we saw the need for hand sanitiser in our local community. Whether local NHS trusts, care homes, or schools, so many places struggled to get hold of sanitiser.
Rhys and his business partner, his father Andy Mallows, 56, moved quickly to secure a deal with a Scottish distiller to supply the base spirit. Their family business then used that spirit to produce an antibacterial gel.
Their site subsequently produced 1.3 million bottles of 100ml hand sanitiser and 124,000 litres of the gel in larger containers.
Rhys Mallows said that the company’s heroic efforts would have been impossible without the dedication of the company’s 29 employees, who pulled together to deliver 18-hour manufacturing shifts for 12 weeks.
“This was a real team effort. It’s a fantastic feeling to be recognised in this way, but I feel strongly that this is an award for everybody that pulled together to ensure we could get the hand sanitiser to the places that needed it most.
“Coming into work in the early days of the pandemic, when we still didn’t have much information, must have felt scary, but our team worked so hard and showed such commitment to getting as much sanitiser as we could physically make out of the door every day.”
Mr Mallows says he is very proud that he played a “small role” in helping protect people during the pandemic. He also credits his mum with coming up with the original idea to switch to manufacturing hand sanitiser:
“Very early on in the pandemic, mum pointed out that we had the facilities to produce sanitiser, and she asked if it would be possible for us to switch our production over to antibacterial gel. So, I have to credit her for being the original inspiration for the whole thing!”
Rhys says that the next step for the firm is to open a brand new, purpose-built distillery in Rhondda Cynon Taf and expand the team:
“Opening our new distillery is the culmination of a lifelong dream for us. We have developed a range of innovative artisan spirits, which we will be exporting to many territories globally. We have already secured contracts to supply retailers in the USA, France, Australia and Poland, and we plan to expand the team to around 60 people this year.
“Switching our production to hand sanitiser was a big risk for us as a business on many levels, but I’m happy we took that decision so early on and were able to help as much as we did.”