Co-op boss warns grocery shortages at ‘worst level ever seen’ amid empty-shelf crisis

CO-OP’s worried boss has warned grocery shortages have hit the “worst level ever seen” amid the UK’s empty-shelf crisis.

It comes a week after restaurant chain Nando’s shut almost 50 restaurants because of reduced chicken supplies.

Shoppers are getting used to seeing empty shelves, including in Co-op stores[/caption]
Co-op’s boss warned food shortages are at a ‘worst level’[/caption]

Retailers and restaurants chains, including Subway, Iceland, KFC, Greggs and McDonald’s, have all been hit by product deficits as meat packers and other manufacturers have also faced significant worker shortages.

Plus our boozers are also running dry.

Steve Murrells, CEO of the Co-operative Group, said the retailer has significantly reduced its range of some products.

The 56-year-old told the Times: “The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen.”

Mr Murrells blamed the supply disruption on “Brexit and issues caused by Covid”.

He also said the firm was retraining staff as lorry drivers in a desperate bid to help fill vacant roles – but shoppers will face less choice in the meantime.

Road haulage bosses have estimated there is currently a mammoth shortfall of some 100,000 drivers.

This is partly caused by the exit from the UK during the Covid pandemic of thousands of EU drivers who have not yet returned.

The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen.

Steve Murrells, CEO, Co-op

Industry groups have also said training of new, replacement drivers will take months, making the shortfall in numbers difficult to resolve quickly.

Labour shortages, which have also hit meat packing and fruit picking jobs, have caused shops and fast food restaurants to struggle for stock.

Subway and McDonald’s are some of the latest victims of the shortages.

Sandwich shop chain Subway said it has seen “minor supply chain shortages” but stressed it has ensured that disruption to customers is minimal.


Meanwhile, McDonald’s ran out of milkshakes in most of its UK restaurants due to the ongoing supply problems.

The burger chain has also been left without bottled drinks across its 1,250 outlets in England, Scotland and Wales.

McDonald’s said: “We apologise for any inconvenience, and thank customers for their continued patience.”

A spokesman said the group was “working hard to return these items to the menu”.

McDonald’s supply woes came after Nando’s was last week forced to shut around 50 restaurants amid a chicken shortage.

It blamed staffing shortages at suppliers and a reduced number of lorry drivers.


Tesco’s chairman warned that UK supermarkets could see food shortages at Christmas due to Brexit-related supply chain disruption.

John Allan urged Government boffins to change rules for lorry drivers to allow for more emergency workers from overseas to help solve the problem.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that supermarkets would normally be building stock now ahead of Christmas.

Mr Allan added: “We are very short of drivers – it’s a combination of many EU drivers having decided to go home and also the age profile.

“At the moment we’re running very hard just to keep on top of the existing demand and there isn’t the capacity to build stocks that we’d like to see.

“So, in that sense, I think there may be some shortages at Christmas.

“But, I wouldn’t want to over-dramatise the extent to which that would be the case.”


Iceland managing director Richard Walker also warned the UK faces “big shortages” of lorry drivers, impacting on Christmas stock.

He said: “We’ve had deliveries cancelled for the first time since the pandemic began, about 30 to 40 deliveries a day.”

Particular lines, such as bread and soft drinks, have been impacted by issues facing suppliers.

“We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas, and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.

“The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute.

“I’d hate this one to be problematic as well,” said Mr Walker.

We’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute.

Richard Walker, MD, Iceland

Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda shoppers have also been faced with empty shelves in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Greggs has confirmed “interruptions in supply for some ingredients” after reports of a chicken bake shortage – which have since been resolved.

A Greggs spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, like others , we’re seeing temporary interruptions in supply for some ingredients which occasionally results in shops not being able to maintain full availability on all lines.

“However, we have a wide range of choices in our menu for customers happy to buy an alternative.”

Costa is also struggling, saying on Twitter: “We are facing some supply chain issues just now.

“We’re working hard to resolve this ASAP.”


A Nando’s spokesperson said last week: “The UK food industry has been experiencing disruption across its supply chain in recent weeks due to staff shortages and Covid isolations, and a number of our restaurants have been impacted.

“It is our intention to have all of our restaurants up and trading again from [last] Saturday, as a result of the hard work behind the scenes, and we look forward to welcoming our customers back to enjoy their favourite peri-peri chicken.”

Rival KFC also warned recently that supply chain issues meant it was unable to stock some menu favourites.

KFC tweeted: “Just a heads up that across our country, there’s been some disruption over the last few weeks – so things may be a little different when you next visit us.

“You might find some items aren’t available or our packaging might look a little different to normal.

“We know it’s not ideal, but we’re working hard to keep things running smoothly.”


The Sun is trying to ease shopping woes by launching a massive new campaign to recruit tens of thousands of HGV drivers to beat the delivery crisis.

The good news is that driver pay is up 12 per cent this year, with experienced drivers able to pocket up to £45k.

Fuel tanker drivers can take home even more — up to £60k a year.

Many firms are also offering £2k signing-on bonuses to new recruits.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As we continue to build back better, I urge anyone starting off in the working world or looking for a new opportunity to kickstart their career in HGV driving by signing up now.”

McDonald’s stopped serving milkshakes thanks to a supply chain crisis[/caption]
Getty - Contributor
Pubs could run out of beer because of transport issues[/caption]

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