C-Store understands that some suppliers are cancelling planned promotional activity in response to the recent CO₂ shortage in northern Europe, which is impacting supply in the UK.
An industry insider told C-Store that some suppliers are worried about stock over the summer, with demand for products that use CO₂ increasing during the World Cup. Problems in the supply chain are understood to have been caused by CO₂ producers shutting down plants for maintenance during the spring and summer.
The shortages are understood to have been caused by a longer than usual break in production of ammonia, a key source of food grade CO₂. Carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are just a few categories that use the gas, with CO₂ also used to preserve food items like packs of salads and slaughter poultry.
Some suppliers have been more affected than others, as some are able to reclaim their own CO₂ from the manufacturing process.
A spokesperson for drinks manufacturer AB InBev said: “Our CO2 supply across both of our U.K. breweries is currently sufficient and we are not anticipating supply issues. As part of our focus on operating sustainably and efficiently, we use CO2 recovery systems at our breweries in Magor, South Wales and Samlesbury, Lancashire.
”These systems enable all CO2 from the brewing process to be recovered and sent back round the site rather than going out into atmosphere, making us mainly self-sufficient for CO2 when it comes to producing our market-leading beers, including the Official Beer of the World Cup, Budweiser.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are co-ordinating the response to the shortage.
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief scientific officer Helen Munday said: “FDF and its members are concerned about CO₂ supplies and the lack of clarity regarding how long a shortage might last and the scale of such a shortage.
“Despite the focus in the media on certain sectors, this is an issue that will affect much of the UK’s £112bn farm-to-fork supply chain. Government must act with urgency to assess the issue as quickly as possible and support the industry through any period of restricted supply.”
British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington, said: “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 source.”
British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths added: “With the supply of CO₂ tightened across Europe, the British Poultry Council is calling on government and major gas producers to prioritise supplies to slaughterhouses and keep the food chain moving. We are assessing what the possible impact on food supply might be, and BPC members are working hard to minimise the effect.
“It is worrying that failures in the gas sector can have such a potentially huge effect on British food production. The BPC will be working closely with Defra, BEIS, retailers and gas suppliers to implement contingency plans and mitigate any major impact on sustainable supply of food.”