As individuals, businesses and societies adapt to living with the effects of COVID-19 and wearing a mask becomes part of a ‘new normal’, AB InBev and Somnis have shifted their ways of working to keep employees and the wider retail and hospitality industry safe.

AB InBev, headquartered in Leuven, has bought the machine from German machine maker, Beckmann Automation, who built the production unit in Germany. It will be moved to Somnis’ base in Lokeren, where the Somnis Bedding teams will take over operations. Production starts in Lokeren at the end of July.

The machine will produce at least 500,000 surgical single-use face masks every month from recyclable, European-sourced, non-woven textile. These medical-grade masks will have a filtration rate above 95%, making them one of the highest standards of masks available.  The production will run on renewable energy from solar power.

AB InBev will donate the first batch of masks to its Belgian café, retail and wholesale partners as mask-wearing is now mandatory in these indoor venues. After that, the masks will cover AB InBev’s and Somnis Bedding’s teams, with any surplus to be offered to its retail, wholesale and hospitality customers throughout Europe.

“Our number one priority is always the health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and that means we adapt to suit their needs,” said Bart Grieten, Vice President of Supply for AB InBev. “As COVID-19 spread to Europe, we acted quickly to put in stringent health and safety measures across our breweries and sites and facilitate remote working for our colleagues where possible. We’re pleased that we can not only provide these masks to our workforce but also to our customers’ workforces in bars, cafes and shops.”

Erik Novaes, VP Procurement & Sustainability, Europe at Anheuser-Busch InBev continued: “As part of our commitment to safety, we have been providing face masks for our employees and partners across our sites, which we originally sourced from China. We were looking for a more sustainable solution as we enter this new reality, and found a local partner here in Belgium. We’re grateful for Somnis’ collaboration and resourcefulness and while this relationship has been a remote one so far, we look forward to meeting with our new partners for a beer together soon!”

Ivan van Duysen, Somnis Bedding said: “We are manufacturers with a long track record in textiles and more specifically in sleeping comfort. Being familiar with similar production processes, equipment and materials needed to produce masks, we were challenged to lend our expertise in this project. As it’s increasingly important to have local availability of personal protection equipment of the highest standards, this project stands out as the equipment is developed and constructed in Belgium and Germany, meaning that the full supply chain is locally anchored.”

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