Shortage of infant formula spurs rationing and inflation

Shortage of infant formula spurs rationing and inflation

One of the most important products for new parents is in short supply. Formula, which three-quarters of babies in the United States receive in their first six months, is increasingly out of stock at retailers across the country. Prices have also skyrocketed, with the average cost of the most popular infant formulas increasing by 18% over the past 12 months.

The supply of infant formula is so limited that retailers like Walgreens even limit how much consumers can buy at one time. A spokesperson for the drugstore chain told CBS MoneyWatch that it is limiting customers to three infant and toddler formulas per transaction, citing “increased demand and various supplier issues.”

Supply chain issues related to COVID-19 are contributing to the formula shortage in the United States. They include manufacturers having more difficulty sourcing key ingredients, packaging blockages and labor shortages, all of which combine to affect production and distribution. Additionally, an important baby formula reminder in January exacerbated shortages.

At retailers across the U.S., 29% of top-selling infant formula was out of stock the week of March 13, according to analysis by Datasembly, which tracks infant formula inventory in more than 11 000 stores. That’s a steep 11% increase in November.

“That’s a shocking number that you don’t see for other categories,” Ben Reich, CEO of Datasembly, told CBS MoneyWatch.


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“We’ve tracked it over time and it’s increasing dramatically. We find that this category is affected by economic conditions more dramatically than others,” Reich added.

In 24 US states, 30% of infant formula was out of stock as of mid-March, while other states were experiencing even worse shortages. In Minnesota, 54% of infant formula was out of stock at the same time. Parents in Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas are also facing severe shortages of at least 40%, according to Datasembly.

By comparison, in the first seven months of 2021, between 2% and 8% of infant formula was out of stock.

“We noticed he was hard to find maybe a few months ago – two, three months ago – and then just recently we can’t find him,” said a San Francisco resident. Irene Anhoeck told CBS News earlier this year. “We tried all the local targets. We checked Costco, Costco online, Walgreens, Long’s. Can’t find it anywhere.”

Product shortages were further exacerbated in February, when Abbott Nutrition launched a widespread recall of its powdered infant formula, following reports of disease in infants who had consumed the baby products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week issued a warning to consumers not to use recalled products manufactured at Abbott Nutrition’s facilities in Sturgis, Michigan, after found the factory unsanitary.

Avoid hoarding

The Infant Nutrition Council of America recently assured parents in a statement on its website that manufacturers are ramping up production to meet families’ needs. The advice also encourages parents to keep a 10-day to two-week supply or formula at home, while urging them not to stockpile products.

A CVS Health spokesperson acknowledged that “product supply issues are currently affecting most of the retail industry.” The company is working with “national brand infant formula suppliers to resolve this issue and we regret any inconvenience our customers may experience,” the spokesperson added.

In January, Enfamil, a leading infant formula brand, said it was facing an unprecedented 18% increase in infant formula demand nationwide.

“We have taken steps to increase production and are currently shipping 50% more product, to resolve issues as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for Reckitt, maker of Enfamil, told CBS News in a statement. at the time.

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