A threat to disruption in supplies of meat and fizzy drink in Europe is posed by a massive shortage of food-grade carbon dioxide (CO2).
This shortage of CO2 in Europe has taken place at a time when there is a frenzy over the football World Cup and a peak season for summer barbecues. A number of major players in the food and drinks industry have already warned customers of very significant shortages in the next few weeks because of the ill-timed crisis.
The shortage has been described as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide business in decades” by trade journal Gas World which was the first to issue the warning earlier this month about the shortage throughout Europe of CO2.
Major ammonia plants are among the major sources of food-grade CO2 for the EU. However, over the last five years, maintenance issues have forced at least five gas producers in Northern Europe to engage in planned shutdown during the early summer months.
Additionally, repair work also resulted in temporary shutdown of an alternative source of CO2 for Europe – other bio-ethanol plants. the hardest hit among the EU members would be the UK because only one CO2 plant has been reported to be operational there.
Drinks such as soda and beer is carbonated by CO2 which is a clear and odorless gas. The bottling and kegging process also makes use of the gas.
Beer and cider supplies were begun to be rationed by Tesco-owned food wholesaler Booker on Tuesday.
Customers are being restricted to 10 cases of beer and five of cider or soft drinks by the company which supplies its products to bars, restaurants and traders.
The company has been forced to engage in rationing of beer and cider supplies due to an “international shortage” of food-grade CO2, booker said in a company statement.
There have been reports of supply disruptions in both Heineken and Coca Cola and there are several other European food and drink firms that are grappling with the shortage of CO2.
A spokesperson from Heineken told the media last week over e-mail: “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 minimize disruption to their business.”
Pubs were also warned by Heineken of “major shortages” for its Amstel and John Smiths brands.
Wetherspoons – the largest pub in the UK has also announced that the shortage would soon force it to get off its menu a number of beers and other carbonated drinks.
On the other hand, shortage of CO2 gas has also forced Coca-Cola to announce that it had “temporarily paused” some of its manufacturing work.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)