‘No need to panic buy’, says Iceland boss, admitting supply issues in fresh food

(Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Britons need not panic buy in the run-up to Christmas, a supermarket boss said today (23), though admitting that  the “array” of pressures facing the supermarket sector is a worry.

Speaking to Sky News, grocery chain Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said the fresh food sector was more likely to face delivery disruption and empty shelves as a result of the lorry driver shortage hitting the economy.

“I’m not overly concerned and certainly there’s no need for customers to panic buy. We certainly don’t want to go back to those dark days,” Walker said.

However, he warned it is “right to sound the alarm bell” on some issues the supermarket sector is facing, but added “it’s more issues within the fresh chamber than it is frozen”.

The supermarket chain boss also cited CO2 shortage as another problem which may affect UK supermarket shelves much sooner.

“This is no longer about whether or not Christmas will be okay, it’s about keeping the wheels turning and the lights on so we can actually get to Christmas,” Walker told BBC Radio 4.

“This could become a problem over the coming days and weeks, so this is this is not an issue that’s months away,” Walker said.

Insisting that at the moment, Iceland is “fully stocked”, Walker said Iceland was building up its stocks on key items such as frozen meat, “just to make sure we can deal with any unforeseen issues”.

Nationally, food supply chains have been placed under intense stress because of a shortage of around 100,000 HGV drivers – with empty shelves across most UK supermarkets as a result.

The crisis seems to have deepened multifold after two plants that produce 60 per cent of the UK’s CO2 were shut down amid rising gas prices.

CO2 is used for everything from the humane slaughter of chickens and pigs, to putting the fizz in soft drinks and creating packaging that keeps foods fresh.

Walker’s statement comes hours after UK’s largest retailer Tesco told the government that it was worried about panic-buying ahead of the festive season.

Speaking to ITV last night, the supermarket’s chairman John Allan warned of a perfect storm of issues and said efforts were being made to avert a “horrendous crisis at Christmas”.

Earlier this month, Iceland boss had warned shoppers of a significant increase in food prices.