European Food-Grade CO2 Shortage Cascades Across Supply Chains

by | Jul 3, 2018

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food-grade CO2

The European food and beverage industry is currently experiencing a food-grade CO2 supply crisis stemming from technical issues with several ammonia plants. Companies across the industry from brewers to meat processors are grappling with the shortage.

Food-grade CO2 helps make soft drinks and beers fizzy, and extends the shelf life for meat, MarketWatch noted. It’s also used for food packaging, cooling, and storage, CNN Money reported.

A byproduct of ammonia produced for fertilizer, food-grade CO2 in Europe traditionally comes from major ammonia plants in UK, Norway, the Netherlands, and France, Gasworld’s Joanna Sampson explained in a recent in-depth article. Usually the plants have scheduled maintenance around this time of year, but the timing was compounded this year by falling ammonia prices that prolonged the downtime, Sampson reported.

“This weekend saw additional planned maintenance shut-downs in bioethanol plants and then one major source in Scandinavia went offline,” Sampson wrote on June 19. “The position of the soft drinks industry has been compounded due to the recent heatwave to hit Europe, resulting in significant additional demand for soft drinks and carbonated beverages.”

Retail Restrictions

The United Kingdom was hit the worst by the shortage. Booker, a major UK wholesaler owned by Tesco, started imposing limits on how many cases of beer grocers and bars could receive per day, CNN Money reported last week.

Last Saturday the Walmart-owned supermarket grocery Asda said it had to ration the amounts of soda that online customers could buy, according to CNBC. “Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and 7Up were among the brands affected by the Asda restriction.”

The supply issue could last for another few weeks, the British Meat Processors Association says. Nick Allen, association’s chief executive, told BBC Radio 4 that the organization had been told it could take two weeks for supplies to “return to normal,” CBNC’s David Reid reported.

“Carbon dioxide gas is used for gas-flushed and modified atmosphere product packaging and also as a humane method of stunning at the point of slaughter,” the association said in an update. “A shortage of CO2 gas will therefore affect a wide variety of foods from cooked and fresh meat and ready meals through to pre-packaged salads.”

The BMPA’s deputy director Fiona Steiger said that members of the association are working with retailers and government officials to keep the supply chain moving.

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