Britain Grapples With Fizzy Drink Shortage

English guy voice: "We’re running out of libations"

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It was just a matter of time. “Only a few days,” in fact. The United Kingdom was running out of little fizzy drinks. Specifically, they were short on carbon dioxide — the odorless gas that powers the empire’s entire national cuisine (beer, meat, fizzy drinks). Here’s Bloomberg on Monday:

The British Soft Drinks Association said manufacturers have “only a few days” of carbon dioxide left in reserve to produce beverages and can’t import supplies from the European Union due to Brexit.

That meant no more Calypso. No more Cidona. No more classic U.K. beverages like Irn Bru, Robinsons, Rubicon, and Tizer. All those famous Great British drinks we drink all the time. With an outlook this dark, some may have wanted to drown their sorrows in a cold can of famous Scottish beverage Nae Danger “Blue Raspberry” or its other flavor, “Red Blueberry.” But brother, those would be gone too.

The shortage stemmed from soda’s secret ingredient: the carbon dioxide captured as a byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing. Unfortunately, this is not an England-exclusive specialty, like mushy peas or spelling flavor “flavour” — among the British Soft Drinks Association’s most prominent members are Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. (Neither returned Gawker’s request for comment about their domestic CO2 sources).

The crisis reached an apex last week when two major fertilizer producers, CF Industries Holdings Inc. and Yara International ASA, cut U.K. production in response to rising natural gas prices across Europe. The former closed several plants across the U.K.; the latter announced plans to “curtai[l] European capacity.” Monday, the British Soft Drinks Association issued their warning, noting that CO2 suppliers had stopped scheduling deliveries more than 24-hours in advance, out of concern for limited stock.

No big deal, the savvy soda drinker might think. There’s a lot of CO2 in the world — way too much, in fact. But British Big Soda had trouble finding international bubble sources: a major plant in Norway was poised to shut down for maintenance, while a Dutch one was “prioritizing EU clients” in the wake of Brexit. (The BSDA did not return Gawker’s request for comment).

The at-risk industries stretched beyond soda. As Bloomberg writes, carbon dioxide “is used in a number of ways from stunning pigs and chickens for slaughter to extending the shelf life of products.” Apparently, labor shortages in the U.K. led to a backlog of living pigs, with some farms overstuffed with “some 100,000 extra animals,” all waiting to be killed by carbon dioxide.

Perhaps that’s why the British Soft Drinks Association called on the U.K. government to intervene with fertilizer subsidies. This was bigger than soda; it was necessary, they wrote, in order to “save Christmas:”

A commitment has been made at the highest levels of Government to ‘save Christmas...We urge the Government to support the operation of UK fertiliser plants through to the end of the year to stop this issue from rearing its head at Christmas (emphasis ours).

Fortunately, news broke Tuesday morning that the U.K. government had reached a deal with CF Industries Holdings Inc. to continue fertilizer production. Shit soda production is back on. Hats off to Boris Johnson, for saving Christmas :) .