CO2 supply crisis now impacting bakery industry

Warburtons' crumpet production has become the latest victim of the carbon dioxide shortage.

The Bolton-based supplier said there are already shortfalls in supply of its crumpets despite the business doing “everything it can” to ensure availability.

Food and drink businesses across the UK have been hit by the shortages in carbon dioxide that are affecting much of Europe. Meat processors and drink suppliers have been feeling the pressure for weeks, but now the crisis is impacting bakeries.

“While the focus so far has been on meat and beverages, the current CO2 shortage is having a much wider impact across the food industry – even everyday staples such as crumpets are affected,” said a Warburtons spokesperson.

Some bakeries use modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) for products such as crumpets, wraps, naan breads, part-baked bread and cakes.

“The oxygen is removed and replaced with a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen,” explained food and drink consultants Campden BRI. “Carbon dioxide inhibits aerobic spoilage organisms, such as moulds in baked products, whereas nitrogen is added as a filler gas to replace oxygen and prevent pack collapse.”

At this stage, it is unknown when a regular supply of CO2 will be available again, with the Food & Drink Federation saying it is in discussion with government departments to try and establish a timeframe.

Allied Bakeries said its supply of products had not been affected at this stage, while Signature Flatbreads said it was managing the situation on a day-to-day basis and has the situation under control at present.

 “The commercial impact of this situation is already being felt and with no end in sight it’s difficult to assess the long-term impact which will undoubtedly be felt by many,” added Warburtons.

The CO2 shortage is heaping further pressure on major bakery businesses already struggling with difficult market conditions and rising costs. In its latest annual results, filed this week, Warburtons reported a fall in sales and profits, explaining that growth had come from its non-bread lines.

“Faced with the tough trading conditions that we were all already battling, it’s fair to say this is a most unwelcome challenge to be dealing with right now,” said the Warburtons spokesperson.

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