Corona beer halts production during coronavirus pandemic

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A brand that has been in the public eye amid the coronavirus pandemic due to its name announced this week that it is temporarily halting operations. The production of Corona beer is now suspended as it is considered a "non-essential business." 

Grupo Modelo, the company that produces Corona beer, announced on Twitter Thursday it will stop brewing its beverages starting Sunday after the Mexican government declared breweries non-essential businesses. The brewer, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, said it is already in the process of decreasing production.

On Tuesday, the Mexican government declared a health emergency, ordering the suspension of all non-essential activities until April 30 to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country surpassed 1,600 Saturday, with at least 60 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reports. 

In its announcement, Grupo Modelo appeared to argue that beer should be considered essential under the umbrella of agricultural businesses. The company said that more than 15,000 families benefit each year from the farming of malted barley and 800,000 grocers rely on the sale of beer for about 40% of their income.

Grupo Modelo said it has followed strict safety and hygiene measures and would be prepared to have 75% of its staff work from home to "guarantee the supply of beer" if the government changes its mind and confirms beer as an essential agro-industrial product. 

The brewer also announced it is donating 300,000 antibacterial sanitizers produced from beer — a trend growing in popularity among distilleries . It plans to announce further actions to contribute to relief efforts in the coming days. 

Early on in the pandemic, some consumers mistakenly associated Corona beer with the virus, with an increase in Google searches for "corona beer virus" and "beer virus." And according to one survey , 38% of American beer drinkers said in late February that they would not buy Corona "under any circumstances" at the moment — but among regular Corona drinkers, only 4% said the same. 

Yet 14% of the Corona drinkers admitted they would not order the brand in a public place, according to the survey. 16% of beer drinkers surveyed were confused at the time about whether Corona beer is related to the virus. 

However, Constellation Brands, which oversees the company's beer in the U.S. said that sales were unaffected by the virus, CNN reports. "We believe that consumers, by and large, understand there's no linkage between the virus and our beer/business," a spokesperson for Constellation Brands told CBS MoneyWatch in late January , well before the virus hit the U.S.