Production of food-grade carbon dioxide (CO2), which is used to add fizz to soft and alcoholic drinks, such as lager, is low as several mainstream producers have closed their sites for maintenance.
Operators have taken to The Morning Advertiser’s (MA) Facebook page to comment on the situation, with one claiming Heineken had called him to say there was no “keg stock of John Smiths Extra Smooth or Amstel lager due to the CO2 shortage”.
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Another user posted: "Like it or loathe it, no Fosters on our delivery today. There is definitely a problem with HUK."
A third comment read: "HUK have turned off their online ordering site too so you have to call to order. Phones have been down this afternoon."
Heineken spokesperson said: "We've been informed by our CO2 supplier that they are facing a 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 disruption to their business."
MA understands deliveries of John Smith's Extra Smooth and Amstel kegs have been affected, and Heineken has been in touch with customers to alert them. MA has also contacted other mainstream breweries to understand how the situation could be affecting production and is awaiting a response.
Other breweries, however, have highlighted on closed social media groups how the situation is affecting production, with one major craft brewer speaking of its worry of getting through the week.
Another craft beer brewer has stopped packaging some of its beers to allow its brewery to remain operational.
Sam Millard, Beavertown brand and communications manager, said: “It [the CO2 shortage] is going to be affecting so many people, and it’ll hit right at a time of peak demand. The sun is out, the world cup is on and people want a beer. Not just breweries, pubs too will likely be affected, as they need a 60/40 [split] to dispense [on the bar].”
‘CO2 is essential’
He continued: “At the moment we are OK, we’ve modified our processes a little so that we’re using much less CO2 on the brewing side of things enabling us to put more of it to packaging where CO2 is essential.
James Calder, head of public affairs at the Society for Independent Brewers, said:
"The shortage of C02 from the two main suppliers in Europe has not yet begun to significantly affect the UK's independent craft brewers, who as well as producing more cask beer – which utilises naturally occurring fizz – brew kegged beer on a much smaller scale than the global brewers.
However many of our members are reporting warnings from their suppliers, making this shortage an additional worry for independent British craft brewers, who are already scrambling to meet the demand for their beers from drinkers across the UK - particularly with the potential of a continued warm summer and successful World Cup ahead of us!"
“At this stage we’re fine through to Tuesday next week, but if we don’t get a CO2 delivery then it will certainly have an impact as we won’t be able to package any beer and in that instance we would have to halt production.”
A Carlsberg spokesperson said: "At Carlsberg UK, we have our own Carbon Dioxide (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 our production and supply of our beer and cider brands to our customers.″
Meanwhile, MA columnist and beer writer Pete Brown said on Twitter that he was aware through a “well-placed source, that supplies of some of the UK’s biggest lager brands have already run out”.
His post continued: “While it’s kinda funny if you’re anti-Big Lager, it won’t be when the knock-on effects hit everyone else.”
Commenting on Brown’s tweet, Magic Rock brewer Stuart Ross said the issue had already affected the Sheffield brewery.
Brewer Yeastie Boys also tweeted: “[It’s affected] us too. I think we should have a short-term stand down on soft drink manufacturing to ensure the beer still flows.”
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), meanwhile, is using the shortage to highlight the benefits of cask ale, real cider and perry.
CAMRA chief communications officer Tom Stainer said beer drinkers concerned about beer supplies over the summer could “rest easy”.
He added: “There are plenty of fantastic real ales, ciders and perries that will be completely unaffected by the impending CO2 shortage.
“Real ales are naturally carbonated by live yeast that is left in the bottle or cask, and are, therefore, "living products" compared to keg beers, which artificially inject CO2 into the brew for carbonation.”
Yesterday (19 June), British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds acknowledged the potential threat to production the CO2 shortage could have and said the organisation was working with brewers.
“We are aware of the situation affecting the availability of CO2 across Europe, which has now started to impact beer producers in the UK,” she said.
“We have recommended our members continue to liaise with their providers directly where they have concerns over supply.
“We will continue to monitor the situation carefully, however, given the time of year and the World Cup, this situation has arisen at an unfortunate time for the brewing industry.”
Soft drinks, too, have been affected, spurring British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington to say: “The shortage of CO2 across northern Europe is impacting a wide range of businesses across the food and drink sector.
“Soft drinks producers in the UK are taking active steps to maintain their service to customers including working with their suppliers to mitigate the impact as well as looking for alternative sources.”