Source: The Guardian
Crumpets are back on the menu at Warburtons after it restarted manufacturing at two factories hit by a shortage of carbon dioxide, which has affected food and drink production across the UK.
Warburtons was last week forced to suspend crumpet production at two of its four bakeries – in Enfield, north London, and Burnley in Lancashire – because it did not have enough gas for use in packaging designed to keep the products fresh.
Under normal circumstances, a total of 8.1m crumpets can roll off the production lines at the two factories each week.
The shortage of food-grade CO2 arose from longer-than-expected shutdowns at ammonia and ethanol plants, key producers of the gas, across Europe.
Three out of five key UK producers were shut down in recent weeks but two of those have restarted, enabling supplies to filter back to brewers, meat processors, fizzy drinks makers and other users of the gas.
However, problems are likely to persist for at least a week as another key supplier of raw CO2, a plant run by CF Fertilisers in Ince, Cheshire, was shut after a power cut thought to be caused by a fire nearby.
Air Liquide, a supplier of food grade CO2, which sources raw gas from CF Fertilisers, told its customers it was declaring “force majeure” because its supplies of gas had worsened as a result of the shutdown in Cheshire, in a letter reported by The Grocer trade journal. It said reserve stocks were severely depleted and it was limiting supplies to clients.
A spokeswoman said: “[The Ince shutdown] is temporarily affecting the Air Liquide situation, which has worsened, but does not reflect the overall UK CO2 market situation.
“The situation evolves regularly in Europe, but overall some raw CO2 plants are in a restarting mode, which should progressively allow for more CO2 supply, with a few days delay.”
Tearmh Taylor, consumer affairs manager at Warburtons, said: “After a tricky couple of weeks, we have finally received a supply of CO2 and production has returned to normal at all sites. We will be back on Britain’s shelves this week.”
However, difficulties across the market could continue for weeks. Some retailers said they continued to experience shortages of some fizzy drinks and craft beers, while the British Meat Processors Association has warned it could take up to three weeks for supplies to return to normal.