A North-East company is calling for Government action over problems surrounding the supply of raw materials needed to keep up with public demand for hand sanitiser.

Tricogen Laboratories, established in 1946, has been manufacturing hand sanitiser as part of its portfolio for 15 years, and meets European standards.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s output of the product has rocketed from five tons a year to 100 tons a week, and there is enough demand to treble production.

That would create 12 temporary jobs at Aycliffe Business Park, where the company is an industry leader in the production of high-quality hair and beauty products.

However, expansion plans are being thwarted by difficulties obtaining raw materials for hand sanitiser, and a 400 per cent increase in the price of ethanol, the product’s main component.

Tricogen wants to increase shifts from one to three a day, but has so far only been able to put on an extra day’s overtime per week.

Chief Executive Garth Sliufko said: “It’s frustrating because we could easily produce hand sanitiser 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and increase weekly output by at least 50 tons to help meet public demand which has gone through the roof.

“But we can’t because we are unable to get the raw materials. Supply of ethanol, and the thickening agent, is the main issue, but there is also a problem with getting packaging materials.”

Mr Sliufko has questioned the 400 per cent increase in ethanol costs, saying: “I can’t see any justification for increasing the price by that much in the midst of a global crisis.”

All products manufactured by Tricogen are registered on the Cosmetics Products Notification Portal (CPNP), which is an online compliance system ensuring they meet European safety standards, and carry the correct information for consumers.

Ten years ago, the company invested in procedures and systems to ensure it can identify every product it manufactures, and track where it was delivered.

Mr Sliufko believes the Government should act to encourage suppliers of raw materials to work in partnership with established manufacturers that have a track record in producing hand sanitiser.

“It is clearly in the country’s best interests to maximise production under the safest conditions possible,” he said.

Tricogen’s roots go back 74 years when Mr Sliufko’s father, Ray, and his brother, Maurice, established Ray & Company (Hairdressers Sundriesmen) Ltd in Darlington.

A manufacturing company, called Raydiant Chemical Company Ltd, ran alongside it, making a range of products for the hairdressing industry.

Raydiant Chemical Company Ltd was rebranded as Tricogen Laboratories 25 years ago, and Ray & Company is now Trade Hair Supplies, with branches across the north. The two businesses employ more than 80 people.