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Baby Formula is Latest Casualty of Supply Chain Crisis Featured

Baby Formula is Latest Casualty of Supply Chain Crisis baby under purple blanket

Baby formula continues to be scarce throughout the United States as parents scramble to feed their babies amid a supply chain crisis. No product seems to be immune to the supply chain disruption with baby formula being the latest causality amplified by the covid-19 pandemic, historic inflation and numerous recalls. With no end in sight, parents are becoming desperate as store shelves lay empty throughout the country. "Unfortunately, given the unprecedented amount of volatility to the category, we anticipate baby formula to continue to be one of the most affected products in the market,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich advised.

Datasembly, a leading provider of real-time product pricing, promotions, and assortment data for retailers and CPG brands recently released their findings around baby formula – or lack thereof. The data released in April showed that out-of-stock (OOS) rates hit an average of 31% in April – up 8% from January. Metro areas continue to be hit hard with Des Moines, Minneapolis, and San Antonio all having an OOS rate of over 50%. 

While not impossible, Massachusetts mother of five Amanda Nardelli has been having a hard time finding formula for her six-month old son.  “This is my fifth [child] and I have never had an issue…” she stated. While Amazon typically carries her formula - Enfamil ProSobee it’s been temporarily out of stock. Like other parents – this has forced Nardelli to be creative when it comes to ensuring that she can provide food for her son. Instead of just purchasing the formula from Amazon like she has in the past, her mother-in-law has been shipping her formula from Arizona.

With an increase in demand – baby formula manufacturers are struggling to keep up as shelves continue to be empty throughout the country. “"We are restocking stores as quickly as possible and continuing to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands," Walgreens spokesperson Emily Hartwig-Mekstan told CNN.

Recent recalls have made the crisis worse with three brands recalling products this year leading to two infant deaths and four bacterial infections from parent company Abbott Nutrition Facility in Michigan. The Food and Drug Administration advised parents not to purchase certain batches distributed from their Sturgis, MI facility of popular baby formula powder Similac, Alimentum and EleCare as they could carry bacterial infections like salmonella.

The recall came months after a whistleblower and former employee warned the FDA about food safety violations at the Michigan facility in October 2021. Other violations alleged by the whistleblower included lax cleaning protocols and falsifying records.

Due to the national shortage of baby formula many retail stores are limiting the amount of formula a person can buy at any given time. In a statement, CVS spokeswoman Monica Prinzing stated, “Following supplier challenges and increased customer demand, we currently have a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in our stores and online.”

Like CVS, Walgreens also has a limit of three per transaction when it comes to baby formula. Other retailers like Target and Walmart don’t seem to have in-person transaction limit but are limiting the number of baby formulas that one can purchase online to four units.

Thinking of making your own formula or importing baby formula? The FDA is warning parents not to citing contamination and “absence of inadequate amounts of critical nutrients.”

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 Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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