How will the shortage of CO2 affect the UK’s food and drink industry?

Friday 22nd June 2018

Threatening to hit the supply of beer, meat and poultry, soft drinks and salads, the UK is facing a shortage of CO2 due to increased demand and seasonal maintenance shutdowns of manufacturing facilities.

This CO2 shortage could not have come at a worse time, with the World Cup under way and the start of the summer BBQ season, although ironically increased demand as a consequence of the World Cup and warm weather have contributed to the situation.

Heineken has already had to limit supplies of its Amstel and John Smith’s brands, and there are genuine concerns that some soft drinks manufacturers could be forced to stop production in the coming days. But this is not just a case of us missing out on a pint whilst we sit in the sun watching the World Cup.

CO2 is also used extensively in the food manufacturing and processing industry, particularly in the slaughter process for chicken and pork, packaging meat, transport and in salads to prolong the shelf life of products. The British Council says up to 60 per cent of the UK’s poultry processing plants could be offline within days due to the CO2 shortage.

The industry is genuinely concerned because there is more than a beer and chicken shortage at stake here. If production plants are forced to shut down it would hit the entire supply chain and have a significant impact on the livelihoods of factory workers, distribution workers, retailers, even pub workers and catering outlets. The soft drinks market alone was worth around £15 billion in the UK last year. It’s easy to see the potential economic impact if this shortage of CO2 is not resolved soon.

Read Mark’s comment about the shortage of CO2 on the FT and the Daily Mail here.