Heineken’s Amstel and Smiths beer hit by CO₂ supply shortage

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Supplies of Heineken’s John Smith’s Extra Smooth and Amstel kegs have been hit by an industry-wide shortage of carbon dioxide.

The CO₂ shortfall is leaving beer and soft drinks makers high and dry just as the World Cup and barbecue season get under way.

Seasonal manufacturing shutdowns have left the UK with only one big plant producing CO₂.

Heineken said it was “working with customers to minimise disruption”.

But the Grocer magazine reported that Heineken had written to pubs limiting the amount they can order of the affected lines.

“We’ve been informed by our CO₂ supplier that they are facing a major issue with supply availability in the UK,” Heineken confirmed in a statement.

Wetherspoons pub chain said that while it had not had any supply issues yet, “that is likely to change in the coming days, and it’s not likely to get any better.

“There might be some products we don’t have available and if it affects Wetherspoons, then it will affect everyone else.”

‘Desperate’

Demand for beer and fizzy drinks is peaking as fans gather to watch the football, thanks to the recent run of hot weather.

Carbon dioxide doesn’t just put the fizz into soft drinks, canned and bottled beers. It also delivers beer at the pub pumps and is additionally used to pack fresh meat and salads.

It comes from ammonia plants that manufacture fertiliser. But as demand for fertiliser peaks in winter, manufacturers often shut down during the summer for maintenance work.

Currently at least five CO₂ producers across northern Europe are offline for maintenance, according to trade publication Gasworld, which first reported the issue.

Gasworld said carbonated drinks producers were now “desperate” amid the worst CO₂ supply crisis for decades.

Beer stoppages

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs, said the CO₂ shortage was beginning to cause stoppages in beer production, although it did not name specific companies.

As much as 82% of beer consumed in the UK is produced here, requiring carbon dioxide, according to Brigid Simmonds, head of the BBPA.

Ms Simmonds said she had written to CO₂ suppliers and one producer had said it would be able to get limited production back on stream at the beginning of July.

“You could have foreseen this. We’ve got the World Cup, which is as exciting in Germany as it is here,” said Ms Simmonds

“Quite why they didn’t anticipate this, I don’t know.”

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