COVID-19 has created immense economic challenges across the globe. As businesses navigate through pandemic recovery, many are forced to pivot to a ‘new normal’.

We know that New Brunswickers and their businesses are resilient, innovative, and agile. Many of our companies have adapted to the new reality and are succeeding in a post-COVID-19 world.

Moncton’s Prelam Enterprises is one of them. “Exports of our traditional products dropped as COVID-19 began, as did our domestic Canadian sales,” says Luc Jalbert, Vice-President and Co-Founder. “But, it forced us to innovate, and we think our new products will have long-term value.”

ONB spoke to Jalbert to learn about Prelam’s post-pandemic plans.

ONB: What’s changed for Prelam Enterprises post-pandemic?

Luc Jalbert Prelam Enterprises New Brunswick Jalbert: We pivoted quickly because we had no choice. Retail sales on our odor-eliminating products would be hurt. We wanted to keep everyone employed, however, so we invented some new formulas and products. Demand for soap and hand sanitizer was obviously high, so that became our focus. All the local breweries and distilleries jumped into the alcohol-based disinfectant space – so we went another way.

Our chemist found a story from the 1400s during the bubonic plague. Four thieves in Europe were robbing dead bodies and sick people, but they never got infected themselves. They were supposed to be burned alive, but the judge said he’d lessen the punishment if they gave up their secret to avoiding the plague. The story goes that they claimed combining lemon, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, and eucalyptus was the key. They put the mixture on their hands, faces, and facemasks and that’s how they staved off the sickness. The judge was true to his word; they didn’t burn, he had them hung instead.

We took those ingredients and combined them with castile soap to make our new EZ Pur Hand Soap. It’s a portable product, travel-sized so you can put it in the car for when you get groceries, etc.

EZ Pur Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer was the other big launch. It uses Benzalkonium chloride, it’s non-flammable, and it won’t dry and crack your hands. It’s been a huge seller so far. Chains like Lawton’s and independent stores across the country have stocked it, including Circle K’s across New Brunswick.

We’ve got a hard surface sanitizer in the works as well. I think that will be great for businesses like restaurants, schools, etc. We also have a toilet seat sanitizer coming, as well as ‘Shoppers Helper’, a mini disinfectant you can bring with you while shopping.

We’ve also imported non-contact infrared thermometers from China. We have dealt with China for 25 years, so we have great contacts there. Those thermometers are great for businesses reopening and looking to check their staff. We use them at our own facility every morning now as part of our health and safety efforts.

This has been a busy time, and our team rose to the occasion. Fortunately, we had the infrastructure, the lab space, and the talent. And all of it was able to be done while we socially distanced. Nobody had to be laid off, in fact, we hired new people.

How do you see the business being affected long-term?

The EZ Pur brand will have legs, absolutely. Not only for the next couple of years but beyond. And those products will keep us busy while sales of our traditional lines return to normal.

Many of these behaviours, e.g. hand washing, will likely continue well into the future. These are things people realize we should have been doing anyway.

That’s right. When flu season kicks in again, I think people will be conscious of hand washing and sanitizing everything. We are well stocked for that, and for any next wave of COVID-19, which hopefully won’t happen, mind you.

Has there been a silver lining for you at all during/since the pandemic?

I got closer to my daughter during this time. She has been out of school of course, so I’ve been able to bring her to work with me. She got to hang out with her dad and see him running his company, so I was proud of that. It certainly helped me during a time when we were extremely busy.

We are all proud of the fact that jobs were maintained. We know many people weren’t so lucky. Our silver lining is while everything else was bad, employment at our firm didn’t suffer, and new, lasting products were created.

Finally, what three words come to mind when thinking of this period?

Innovated, pivoted, survived.

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Keep an eye on all the support ONB can offer as it relates to dealing with COVID-19.

Written by Jason Boies