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From heads to hands, Coquitlam company switches production to protect health care workers

AG Hair is gearing up to produce hand sanitizer to protect health care workers and the public from COVID-19
hand sanitizer
Coquitlam's AG Hair is switching its production line from producing hair care products to spray and gel hand sanitizers.

A Coquitlam company that has been producing hair products for 30 years is switching its focus from heads to hands.

AG Hair, which recently moved from Burnaby into its new headquarters in the Fraser Mills business park on United Boulevard, is gearing up to produce hand sanitizer to help protect health care workers and the public from COVID-19.

John Davis, one of the company’s co-founders, said it’s not as radical a shift as one might think.

“Going from one to the other is not that big a stretch,” he told The Tri-City News, adding any product that makes a claim such as preventing dandruff or killing germs is considered “over the counter” and must meet stringent standards set by the government.

That means development of a new hair product can take anywhere from a year to 18 months for market research, formulation and testing to actual production.

The West Vancouver resident said he hopes to have sanitizer in the hands of health care workers by mid-April.

He said the process to switch the company’s production actually started about a month ago as the pandemic’s storm clouds were starting to drift over the horizon in North America.

“We recognized what was going on in other parts of the world,” Davis said. “Frontline workers would be at risk and there would be a slowdown in our business, so we marshalled all our resources where we can help.”

Those resources included connecting with the company’s packaging suppliers in China to source up to one million spray and pump dispensers, getting expedited licence approvals from Health Canada, printing new labels and gathering raw materials.

Davis said AG Hair’s existing production facility is already built to handle spray and gel products, so “that part is less complex for us.”

The shift in direction will also help keep the company’s 75 employees (35 to 40 of them in Coquitlam) working. In fact, Davis said, they may even end up adding workers as production ramps up. It has also been energizing, he said, despite the long days pulling together all the disparate requirements to get the process in gear.

“The strength of our people, their ability to be thinking outside the box, it’s been pretty incredible what Canadians are doing to help each other,” Davis said.