Beer and fizzy drink shortages possible after CO2 supply disrupted
Beer, fizzy drink and meat producer groups have all expressed concern about the shortage.
Beer, fizzy drinks and meat producers have warned of possible shortages caused by a lack of CO2 as the UK enters peak consumption amid World Cup festivities and summer barbecues.
The shortages are understood to have been caused by a longer than usual break in production of ammonia, one of the key sources of food grade CO2 in Europe – which is used to carbonate drinks and preserve some packed fresh foods.
Trade journal Gas World said the shortage had been described as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades”.
We are aware of a situation affecting the availability of CO2 across Europe, which has now started to impact beer producers in the UK. British Beer and Pub Association
The UK was hit particularly hard as only one major CO2 plant was operating earlier this week and imports from the continent had been affected by shut-downs in Benelux and France.
It said many consumers of CO2, especially carbonated drinks producers, were desperate for supplies of the product, and the shortage appeared to be likely to continue for the remainder of June “at least”.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “We are aware of a situation affecting the availability of CO2 across Europe, which has now started to impact beer producers in the UK.
“We have recommended our members to continue to liaise with their providers directly where they have concerns over supply.
“We will continue to monitor the situation carefully. However, given the time of year and the World Cup, this situation has arisen at an unfortunate time for the brewing industry.”
A Heineken spokeswoman said: “We’ve been informed by our CO2 supplier that they are facing a major issue with supply availability in the UK. Like many other businesses in the food and drinks industry, we are affected by this shortage.
“We continue to work hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible within our European supply base, and are working with customers to minimise disruption to their business.”
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are fully aware of the situation. At present none of our pubs have been affected and are offering their full range of drinks.
“We are monitoring the situation closely with our suppliers in order to minimise any disruptions that might occur. We are aware that the situation might get worse and if it does there could be shortages in pubs and other hospitality outlets.”
The shortages come as many prepare to celebrate in pubs and at home as they follow England’s progress in the football World Cup in Russia.
Retailers are also expecting sales of alcohol and soft drinks to be boosted by forecasts of a hot summer running through until August.
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said: “We are currently responding to an industry-wide issue that is impacting the supply of CO2 in the UK and across Europe. Our focus is on limiting the effect this may have on the availability of our products.
“There has been no disruption to supply to date and we are continuing to fulfil orders to our customers. We are working closely with our suppliers, partners and customers on a number of solutions as the situation develops.”
Tesco’s website is showing that a number of carbonated drinks, including own-label and Schweppes lemonade and Dr Pepper, is “currently unavailable”, but a spokesman said it was unrelated to any CO2 shortage.
The British Soft Drinks Association said in a statement: “The shortage of CO2 across Northern Europe is impacting a wide range of businesses across the food and drink sector.
“Soft drinks producers in the UK are taking active steps to maintain their service to customers including working with their suppliers to mitigate the impact as well as looking at alternative sources.”
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) also said it was “very concerned” about the shortage, as CO2 is used in packing fresh meat and salads.
BMPA deputy director Fiona Steiger said: “We are getting very concerned. It’s different for every member. Anyone who uses CO2 will have individual contracts with suppliers, and each supplier has different amounts.
“Supply is running out and it’s pretty tight for some people. Others hope to be able to see it out.
“We don’t know when supplies will be back up. We’ve been told it could be about a month.”