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Carbon dioxide shortage threatens fizzy drink and beer sales

Sophie Christie
Soft drinks manufacturers are struggling with production without CO2 and are 'desperate to obtain product' - Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

A shortage of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) across Europe has left drinks manufacturers scrambling to secure supplies, as the continued warm weather in Britain and the World Cup has led to a surge in demand for carbonated drinks.

While supply tightened as early as April due to planned shutdowns at some ammonia plants for maintenance works, the situation is now critical because other plants have had to close due to technical issues, at a time when they should be ramping up production.

CO2 is a byproduct in ammonia production, with ammonia plants serving as one of the largest sources of food grade CO2 in Western Europe.  

The position of the soft drinks industry has been compounded due to the recent heatwave in Europe, which has boosted demand for soft drinks and carbonated beverages, with the UK being the hardest hit as only one major producer is currently operating, according to trade publication Gasworld.

It said well-known brands of soft drinks manufacturers are struggling with production without CO2 and are "desperate" to obtain the product.

The World Cup football tournament in Russia is also causing more people to head to their local pubs, putting further pressure on supplies. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimated that 14 million more pints than usual were drunk on Monday night, when England beat Tunisia in their first group game of the tournament.

The World Cup has increased demand for beer and soft drinks as more revelers head to the pub to watch the game

Signs of the fizzy drinks shortage are already evident, with Tesco's website showing many soft drink products out of stock, with a warning that "you might have been unable to find some soft drinks online due to a supply issue". Own-brand lemonade, cola, Schweppes lemonade and Dr Pepper are all out of stock on its website.

There are also concerns that meat supplies could be impacted as CO2 is commonly used in slaughterhouses to stun and kill animals. 

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "We are aware of a situation affecting the availability of CO2 across Europe, which has now started to impact beer producers in the UK.

"We have recommended our members continue to liaise with their providers directly where they have concerns over supply."

The BBPA will continue to “monitor the situation carefully”, Ms Simmonds added.