Supplies of food and drink have been disrupted as a result of a shortage of CO2
Meat producers, soft drinks manufacturers and brewers have all declared production problems after CO2 supplies tightened in the UK.
The Food and Drink Federation warned the crisis would “affect much of the UK’s £112bn farm-to-fork supply chain” and called for action from the government.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of Defra’s food chain emergency liaison group on 2 July. Afterwards a Defra spokesperson told SM: “We have been speaking to industry about the situation. It’s an industry issue in terms of getting supply back on. Plants are coming back online and hopefully it will be resolved shortly.”
But the British Meat Producers’ Association warned it could take weeks for the meat supply chain to return to normal.
CO2 is used to stun animals in the slaughter process and in packaging, as well as in the production process for soft drinks and beers.
Pig and poultry processors reported production had been halted or slowed because of the shortage, while Coca-Cola paused production and Heineken reported shortages of John Smith’s Extra Smooth, Amstel and Kronenbourg 1664.
Warburtons halted production of crumpets at two factories for about a week because it did not have the CO2 needed for packaging.
CO2 is a by-product from the creation of ammonia by fertiliser companies. Peak consumption for fertiliser is the winter, and chemical companies traditionally scale back production as summer approaches and close plants for maintenance.
This year the shortage has been exacerbated by low ammonia prices, which provide little incentive for plants to restart production quickly, and increased demand due to higher food and drink consumption because of the hot weather and the World Cup.
Three steps to avoid a crisis in your CO2 supply chain from Rhiarn Warner, community manager at consultancy Achilles
1. Build your understanding of your suppliers. Know the weak links in the chain. Knowing every tier of your supply chain will help you understand what impact a shortage by one supplier could have on production. Mapping ensures high standards don't just apply to the top tier and helps spot weaknesses.
2. Manage risk by building a picture of market conditions, industry insights, anticipated exceptional events and mapping expected productivity on to this to highlight any scenarios that require advance action. In this case, the current CO2 shortage is a result of a perfect storm.
3. Get access to a broad range of assured alternative suppliers to re-source key ingredients or products at short notice without compromising quality or reputation. This is valuable when access to a product is less straightforward (as it is with CO2 as a by-product of ammonia).