Sunflower oil shortage causing difficulties for crisp-makers
Global shortages of sunflower oil in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could force speciality crisp manufacturers in the UK to use different ingredients, put up prices or even halt production.
Food and drink giant Princes said in early April that it expected sunflower oil supply to cease “in a number of weeks” due to the conflict. Some 80% of the world’s supply usually comes from embattled Ukraine and heavily-sanctioned Russia.
While expressing concern primarily for the Ukrainian population, independent brands said they were facing tough economic decisions.
Fiddler’s Lancashire Crisps calculated it had enough sunflower oil to last it through April but had been unable to source any further supplies.
“We will have to start looking at rapeseed oil,” said owner John Fiddler. “If it affects the quality of crisps, we will have to shut up shop. I would rather not produce something that is not perfect.”
The timing of the latest shortage was difficult for manufacturers, he added.
“We’ve just come through a hard two years and I thought we were getting back on our feet but we’ve been hit by another sledgehammer.”
Sean Mason, co-founder of Herefordshire’s Two Farmers crisps brand, said the cost of a 10,000-litre delivery of sunflower oil had doubled since Christmas.
“We are taking any sunflower oil that gets offered to us,” he said. “We are willing to pay market prices rather than contract price.”
Those supplies that were available were coming from EU nations, Mason said.
“Nothing is coming out of Ukraine or Russia now. The farmers are fighting on the front line so they are not planting crops and there is war waste across vast areas that needs to be cleared.”
Geraint Hughes of Welsh snack brand Jones o Gymru said the firm had added almost a fifth to its prices to cope with rising costs including the soaring sunflower oil bills.
“It takes time to feed through to the shelf but we’ve seen items that were retailing for £1 maybe now at £1.20,” he said.
Hughes added that costs were also rising for alternative oils as people were making the switch.
A spokesperson for Tyrrell’s said the brand was not experiencing supply shortages but had “contingency options in place to protect continuity of supply”.
Pipers Crisps’ production was not affected by the shortage of sunflower oil as FFD went to press, but the brand was understood to be ready to adjust the blend of oils it used if necessary.