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From Greggs to Costa: The chains reporting food shortages due to post-Brexit HGV crisis

·3-min read

Brexit and other factors have led to shortages of both food supplies and workers in recent weeks, with supermarkets now warning of potential disruption to Christmas supplies.

Britain’s EU exit has contributed to a massive fall in the number of lorry drivers available to move goods, as have rising wages in their home countries, according to the boss of Tesco.

Reports suggest coronavirus self-isolation requirements have also been a factor, while McDonalds’ and others have been hit by a shortfall in manufacturing workers.

You can follow live updates on Brexit here.

Here we look at which chains have been affected, and what they have had to say about the crisis.


The national pastry chain was reported to have suffered a shortage of poultry affecting its popular chicken bake and other items. However, that particular favourite is still on the menu.

“There are no current supply issues with our chicken bakes and our customers can continue to enjoy these as they usually would,” a spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, like others, we’re seeing temporary interruptions in supply for some ingredients which occasionally results in shops not being able to maintain full availability on all lines. However, we have a wide range of choices in our menu for customers happy to buy an alternative.”


A number of menu items at the coffee chain have been affected by supply shortages, according to its Twitter account. These have included paninis and decaffeinated coffee beans.


The American fast-food franchise, which has some 1,250 shops in the UK, ran out of milkshake ingredients and bottled drinks this week.

A spokesperson said the shortages were only affecting England, Scotland and Wales, however – notably, not Northern Ireland.

“We apologise for any inconvenience, and thank our customers for their continued patience. We are working hard to return these items to the menu as soon as possible,” they added.

Nando’s and KFC

Nando’s blamed its widely publicised difficulties in sourcing chicken for its peri-peri restaurants on the coronavirus “ping-demic”. It has not publicly acknowledged the impact of Brexit but did admit that shortages were not affecting restaurants in Northern Ireland or the Republic.

One of Britain’s largest poultry producers, Avaro Foods, dismissed claims the crisis had been caused by coronavirus isolation rules.

“Our concern is recruitment and filling vacancies when the UK workforce has been severely depleted as a result of Brexit,” a spokesperson said, adding: “This is causing stress on UK supply chains.”

Nick Allen, chief executive at the British Meat Processors Association, told The Independent: “The supply problems are coming from the underlying labour problems happening since Brexit … It’s certainly Brexit-related, but it’s also the immigration decisions our politicians are making since Brexit.”

Co Op

Shortages of food have reached historic levels, the head of the Co-Operative Group has suggested.

Steve Murrells, the retailer’s chief executive, said it had significantly reduced its range of some products to help serve customers.

He told The Times: “The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen.”

He blamed Brexit and Covid-19, and said the company was retraining staff to work as lorry drivers.


Iceland’s boss grabbed the headlines this week when he suggested that food shortages driven by Brexit could affect Christmas.

Richard Walker Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute and I’d hate this one to be problematic as well.”

The supermarket giant is suffering daily shortages of food and drink products because of a chronic lack of lorry drivers, he added.

Iceland is currently short of 100 full-time drivers and Mr Walker warned that this was “impacting the food supply chain on a daily basis”.

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