Hair product firm switches to hand gel in fight against virus

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Herb UK
Factory workers’ future at Herb UK has been secured by it adapting to the current market

WHILE many firms shut down amid the coronavirus spread, a Lymington hair product manufacturer has gelled together its assets and created a hand sanitiser.

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Up to 25 jobs at Herb UK’s Ampress Park base have been saved by the company adapting to the situation – and the company has already netted thousands of orders.

Not only has Herb UK protected itself it is also helping those in need of crucial hand sanitiser products at a time of national crisis – including police, ambulance, fire and care workers.

Herb UK’s managing director Raoul Perfitt has pledged the company will prioritise orders from pharmacies, local health and care services and police and fire, adding: “They will get it at 50% off retail prices.”

Raoul Perfitt

In an interview with the A&T, Mr Perfitt – who is from Hordle and runs the firm’s Lymington facility – said the company was “very grateful” for what it could do for others.

“We are trying to do our bit to support the local area and keep things going,” said Mr Perfitt, who has worked for Herb UK since 1993.

“It’s certainly interesting and challenging times. It’s a small thing we are doing, really, but if it helps then that will be great.

“It will also keep 25 people in employment – pretty much all of which live in or are from the Lymington area.

“Overall we employ 55 staff at our Lymington unit, and our production guys and girls cannot work from home. The accounts team and office team have all been working remotely but production can’t – so it helps and it’s keeping people working.”

Mr Perfitt has appealed to New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to permit his workers to be given key worker status.

Herb UK was established in 1990 and was originally based in Christchurch before moving to Lymington in 2003.

It has grown to become a leading manufacturer of hair products in the UK and produced two brands: the salon-exclusive Organic Colour Systems and Tints of Nature, which supplies the retail market. Herb UK exports products to more than 40 countries worldwide.

Mr Perfitt explained: “As the pandemic unfolded we decided we could do something, since we use alcohol a lot in our products – for instance it features in our hair colour products, conditioners and so on.

“So we decided to switch our use of alcohol to making hand sanitiser. Obviously it’s quite a challenge since everyone is trying to get hold of ethanol, but we managed to secure supplies.”

Plastic bottles normally produced by Herb UK at its Lymington plant

In its first phase, the company will produce 12,000 units of a hand sanitiser spray, followed by 20,000 units of sanitiser in larger bottles – the type which features in hospitals and care homes. It will also be producing a new hand sanitising soap using tea tree oil and has secured supplies to enable it to make dispensers.

Mr Perfitt said the company had already secured orders for its hand spray and sanitiser products all over the UK, and has also had an inquiry from the Metropolitan police.

He said it has made the decision to hold back 1,000 of its products specially to sell to local companies and will donate some sanitisers to Lymington Hospital as a goodwill gesture.

“The real challenge for us is to get it into production on all the component lines, since manufacturing is generally quiet since people have been taken off the supply chain,” Mr Perfitt said.

“It’s been a real help to all of our staff and given them the ability to focus on a positive thing, and we are also helping local people.

“We’ve had nursing homes contacting us, and the onus will be on us to distribute this stuff in a sensible way. We are going to have to ration them since we know we will be inundated with people trying to buy them.”

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