Sunday 15 September 2019

Bubble trouble as shortage of CO2 hits fizzy drinks market

Stock picture
Stock picture

Alan O'Keeffe

It's been bubbling for days now - they're running out of fizz.

A serious shortage of carbon dioxide gas has taken the wind out of the beverage business.

The bubble trouble began with a breakdown at a big production plant in Europe. It happened as another big plant was already shut for repairs.

As the hot weather increases demand for carbonated drinks - beers, ciders, soft drinks, and mineral waters - Irish producers are deeply concerned about securing supplies of CO2 gas.

Some tipplers may even feel they can't have sparkling conversations without an ever-present effervescence.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has warned a Europe-wide shortage of CO2 gas may force some smaller breweries to close temporarily with short term lay-offs of staff.

Efforts by some micro-breweries to continue making beer may fall flat.

A trade magazine Gas World warned it is "the worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades".

As sunny days continue and World Cup broadcasts bring bigger crowds to pubs, the growing inclination for guzzling gassy drinks could not have come at a worse time for producers.

Ireland's biggest producer of mineral waters, Celtic Pure in Co Monaghan, needs one tonne of CO2 gas every day for its sparkling spring water.

"Our tank holds 10 tonnes of CO2 and it has to be refilled every 10 days.

"We only have enough for four more days of production but more supplies won't be delivered until July 2," said chief executive Padraig McEneaney last Friday.

"We're expecting water sales to go up 30pc with the good weather. Our staff will have to increase production of still water when the CO2 runs out," he added.

"Our water has won the gold medal for the past three years from the British Bottlers' Institute for its quality."

The CO2 gas he uses is produced in big European plants but it comes to his business in Ireland through British suppliers.

He is hoping big British companies do not snap up all available supplies.

Food production companies use CO2 gas in packing foods to prolong the shelf-life of meat, poultry, salads and ready meals.

In Britain, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has set up an emergency committee to deal with the CO2 shortage.

A spokeswoman in Dublin for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said the department "is monitoring the supply situation" with regard to the Irish food and drinks industry. "The department is in regular contact with the representative industry body, Ibec," she said.

Paul Kelly, who is director of Food Drink Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the food and drink industry, said: "The shortage of CO2 across Northern Europe is impacting a wide range of businesses across the food and drink sector.

"Food and drink companies are taking active steps to maintain their service to customers, including working with their suppliers to mitigate the impact as well as looking at alternative sources."

Sunday Independent

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