As the Europe-wide shortage of CO2 worsens, putting a stop to brewing and packaging, many brewers are running low on stocks of beer, cider and soft drinks.
CO2 is used to put the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks as well as being used to create dry ice, which helps to keep things chilled in transit in the food industry. Several mainstream producers of food-grade CO2 have closed their sites temporarily for routine maintenance, causing a knock on effect on the food and drinks industries.
Drinks companies large and small have felt the impact. West Midlands bottling firm Holdens were forced to close in mid-June. Heineken has reported its John Smiths Extra Smooth and Amstel products were hit and the production for Coca-Cola has been interrupted until more supplies of CO2 arrive.
Heineken said “We have been informed by our CO2 supplier that they are facing major issues with availability in the UK. Like many other businesses in the food and drink 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 the disruption to their business”.
One brewer who has not yet been affected is Carlsberg with a spokesman saying “At Carlsberg UK, we have our own CO2 recovery system situated within our Northampton Brewery. This means that we are self-sufficient with regard to the CO2 necessary to support our brewing commitments. At present we see no risk to production and supply of our beer and cider brands to our customers”.
Wholesaler, Booker, who are one of the largest suppliers to restaurants and bars, has begun to limit its trade customers to 10 cases of each type of beer, 5 cases of cider and a similar limit on soft drinks.
It is not just breweries that are affected; pubs are also likely to be affected as they use CO2 to be able to dispense beers and ciders on the bar.
Unfortunately the CO2 shortage has hit at a time of peak demand with the good weather and the football world cup meaning people want a beer.
Suggestions in the industry indicate that supplies could start returning to normal in early July. However, trade journal Gasworld has reported that the shortage is likely to continue for at least the next week.
Trade groups for the food and the drinks sectors have criticised CO2 suppliers for a lack of communication which has left them unable to plan for the future.
It’s also likely that some companies will be given priority over others once supplies return to normal. Meat producers have asked for priority treatment, given that the welfare of animals is involved.
Smaller companies fear they will be “put at the back of the queue” as CO2 companies strive to satisfy the demands of their biggest customers first.