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Suntory Holdings ramps up anti-COVID face-shield project with Tokyo bar trials

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Suntory Holdings is market testing a face-shield that allows consumers to eat and drink while protecting themselves from COVID-19. 

Suntory said the face shields will help Japans on-premise recover from COVID-19

Suntory said the face shields will help Japan's on-premise recover from COVID-19

The headgear, which Suntory CEO Takeshi Niinami revealed was in development earlier this year, consists of a pair of glasses with a plastic mouth-shield attached to a moveable arm. The mouth-shield can be swung away from the face to allow eating and drinking.

Click here to see a video of the shield in action

According to Suntory's Japanese spirits arm, Suntory Liquors, the company is testing the equipment in restaurants and bars to assess its viability. A report from Japanese media group NHK said the tests are being carried out in Tokyo's on-premise channel. The Japan Times has reported that sales of the masks could start in time for the country's traditional end-of-year drinking party season.

According to Suntory, the protective gear will help boost the coronavirus-impacted Japanese on-premise by creating a safer environment.

"Our brands have grown into what they are today thanks to the food service industry," said Kenji Yamada, CEO of Suntory Liquors. "Together with restaurants and bars, Suntory has contributed to cultivating the food and beverage culture in Japan and we have been considering how we can best support this industry, which is one of the most heavily impacted by the pandemic."

The face-shield was made using a computer analysis of virus droplet simulations. Suntory partnered with Japanese printing firm Toppan and science institute Riken on the project.

Speaking to just-drinks in July, Albert Baladi, CEO of Suntory international spirits unit Beam Suntory, said the protective helmet project came from a belief in Japan that "human connections are very important". Asked if the idea could work in other markets, Baladi said: "Let's see what they come up with. Once we know what we have, we will be able to assess where it can play out."

"Consumers have embraced cocktail making like they have cooking and baking" - just-drinks speaks to Beam Suntory CEO Albert Baladi


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