Irn Bru production under threat due to carbon dioxide shortage

The makers of Irn Bru have warned “unprecedented circumstances” that have led to a nationwide shortage of carbon dioxide could impact the production of their soft drinks.

What’s happening? Cumbernauld-based AG Barr, who produce brands such as Irn Bru, Rubicon and Tizer, said it had invested in additional storage of carbon dioxide, but warned if the situation worsens across Europe, the company could be impacted.

What’s causing the gas shortage? The soaring price of natural gas in the UK – which has risen by 250 per cent since January and 70 per cent since August – led to the closure of two fertiliser plants last week.

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Why it matters: The gas – which is used to create the bubbles in fizzy drinks such as Irn Bru – is a by-product of fertiliser production and the two plants provide around 60 per cent of the country’s carbon dioxide.

The possibility of a welfare cull of pigs and poultry could also follow as farmers and abattoirs struggle to obtain the gas. Norwegian firm Yara, another fertiliser producer, also cut its production levels last week due to rising natural gas prices.

Scotland’s food industry is less impacted by the CO2 shortage as the more prevalent cattle and sheep farming relies on electricity rather than CO2 to stun animals prior to slaughter.

A spokesperson at AG Barr told The Scotsman that the company has invested in CO2 storage in recent years and has access to UK and European sources of the gas through its suppliers.

However, the company warned that if the situation worsens across Europe, production could be impacted.

They said: “We’re currently producing to normal schedules however if the situation worsens across Europe then we could be impacted, but we’re taking action to protect normal customer supply as much as possible.”

“We have worked hard to build resilience into our Co2 supply chain over a number of years however these are quite unprecedented circumstances.”

CF Industries, a US firm, suspended production at its plants in Teesside and Cheshire last week due to the price of natural gas impacting profits on producing fertiliser.

However, suspending production of fertiliser at these plants has seen the meat industry – which relies on the gas to stun pigs and poultry prior to slaughter and for packaging as a shelf-life expanding agent – warn of impending shortages.

A version of this article first appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman