Major British supplier rations beer, cider and soft drinks due to CO2 shortage

28 June 2018

Major British supplier rations beer, cider and soft drinks due to CO2 shortage

Britain’s biggest food and drink wholesaler has begun limiting beer, cider and soft drink sales to pubs, bars, restaurants and shops, as Europe’s carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage continues.

Initially caused by maintenance work and unplanned CO2 plant shutdowns, the shortage of food-grade CO2 has worsened due to increased demand caused by the Royal Wedding and the FIFA World Cup, and may deteriorate further during a predicted heatwave.

Booker, which was recently acquired by supermarket chain Tesco, is the major supplier of food and drink to British convenience stores, bars and other businesses.

It has begun limiting retailers to 10 cases of beer or five cases of cider or soft drinks per purchase, but says that it is working to minimise the impact on consumers.

A spokesperson for Booker said: “Due to the international shortage of CO2, we are expecting some supply issues on soft drinks and beer.

“We are currently working hard with our suppliers to minimise the impact for our customers and to optimise availability with the stock that is available. Therefore, we cannot comment further at this stage.”

Chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, described the shortage as a “significant crisis” for the sector, but acknowledged pubs and bars hadn’t started limiting their sales to consumers.

“Clearly venues are going to have to plan very thoroughly if wholesalers are beginning to ration their products,” Ms Nichols said.

“If the shortage in CO2 is not dealt with pretty quickly, then some venues could find themselves facing real trouble,” she added.

Coca-Cola has temporarily suspended some production as a result of the shortage, while shortages of Pepsi products have been reported by retailers.

CO2 is also used to extend the shelf-life of packaged foods, and suppliers of chicken, pork and bagged salad have also been affected, as have home delivery services which rely on dry ice, another form of CO2.

Brigid Simmons, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, called for the Government’s assistance through measures “such as increasing storage capacity for CO2 in the UK, to ensure this does not happen again.”