A national baby formula shortage caused by pandemic-related supply chain problems has forced US retailers like Walgreens to ration the all-important product.
The company — the second-largest pharmacy chain in the United States behind CVS — announced Friday that it is limiting customers at its 9,021 U.S. locations to purchases of three infant and young child nutrition products at a time amid supply chain shortages.
A company spokesman told DailyMail.com The restrictions already in place are due to “increased demand and various supplier issues” as it emerged that 29 per cent of all best-selling formulas in stores across the country were out of stock.
Parents are panicking about the shortage of the product, which about three-quarters of US infants receive at some point within their first six months.
“Typically I would sometimes buy four to six cans to get us through the month and I’d have to narrow that down to two,” Memphis resident Samantha Modely told the local outlet WREG TV Thursday.
A national baby formula shortage caused by pandemic-related supply chain problems has forced US retailers like Walgreens to ration the all-important product. Pictured is a barren formula shelf in a large department store in January. In the meantime, the shortage has worsened to the crisis level
The shortage of the product, which about three-quarters of US infants receive at some point within their first six months, is causing parents across the country to panic
“My girlfriend is going to have a baby in August and I can’t imagine worrying about you being able to go to the local grocery store and get what you need,” the mother said.
“We realized a few months ago — two, three months ago — that it was difficult to find, and then just recently we can’t find it,” said Irene Anhoeck of San Francisco CBS News of the shortage that has affected shops across the country.
“We tried all local targets. We checked Costco, Costco online, Walgreens, Long’s,” Anhoeck said. ‘Can’t find it anywhere.’
The shortage is being attributed to pandemic-related supply chain issues that left billions of dollars backlogged for toys, clothing, electronics, vehicles and furniture last year, and supply disruptions caused by severe weather in the Deep South last month.
A recent recall exacerbated the problem in February when Abbott, one of America’s Big Four formula makers, recalled a number of its products – including the popular Similac. Shown is a currently out of stock Similac offer on Amazon
A recent recall compounded the problem in February when Abbott, one of America’s Big Four formula makers, recalled a number of its products — including its flagship Similac formulas.
The recall — which focused on products made at its Sturgis, Michigan factory — was prompted by possible contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacterium that could prove fatal to infants, the company said at the time.
Now, almost two months later, the product is increasingly sold out at retailers – both small and large – across the country.
An analysis by Datasembly, a company that tracks billions in grocery and retail prices for stores in all 50 states, tracked baby formula inventory at more than 11,000 stores and found that 29 percent of top-selling baby formula products were out of stock for the week of 03/13 .
A recent study that tracked baby food inventory at more than 11,000 stores found that 29 percent of top-selling baby food products, including Enfamil (pictured), were out of stock in the week of March 13
The clear increase is upwards 11 percent off November, as the supply chain crisis peaked due to historically high demand for consumer goods during the pandemic, as an influx of Americans chose to stay at home rather than spend money on travel and entertainment.
Other problems contributing to the bottleneck on America’s overseas supply line include a labor shortage in US ports and the constraints that have come with it COVID-19 Outbreak in 2020 and 2021. These restrictions, which included social distancing and mandatory quarantines, severely limited the numbers and skills of longshoremen, thus impeding the flow of product, including formulas, to the States.
Other supply chain issues driving the shortage of formulas include an increasing difficulty in sourcing key ingredients, as well as packaging delays and labor shortages.
A non-stock listing of the Enfamil formula on Amazon on April 8th. The shortage is attributed to pandemic-related supply chain issues
A non-stock listing of the Gerber formula on Amazon on April 8th
“That’s a shocking number that you don’t see in other categories,” Ben Reich, CEO of Datasembly, told CBS of the study’s findings, which are likely to get worse.
“We’ve tracked it over time and it’s increasing dramatically. We see that this category is more dramatically affected by economic conditions than others,” Reich said.
The Retail Tracker investigation also found that 24 US states were out of stock by 30 percent of all formulas as of mid-March, while other states were experiencing even worse shortages.
In Minnesota, for example, a whopping 54 percent of baby formula products were sold out.
Several states also saw shortages of more than 40 percent, the study found, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas.
For comparison, in the first seven months of 2021, only 2 to 8 percent of baby food products were sold out.
The American Deep and Mid-South have also been hit hard by formula shortages — compounded by a series of storm systems that have devastated states like Georgia, Mississippi, and North and South Carolina in recent weeks — with shelves that were once lined with the product now barren.
More than two years into the pandemic, the product is increasingly sold out at small and large retailers across the country. Pictured is an empty formula shelf in January
A spokesman for CVS Health, America’s number one pharmacy with 9,874 locations nationwide, had to acknowledge the shortage in February, saying that “product supply challenges are affecting most of the retail sector right now.”
The company went on to claim that it is working with “national baby food suppliers to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers.”
In January, Enfamil, one of the country’s leading baby food brands, said it was struggling with an unprecedented 18 percent surge in US baby food demand.
“We have taken steps to ramp up production and are currently shipping 50 percent more product to resolve issues as quickly as possible,” a spokesman for Reckitt, the maker of Enfamil, said in a statement at the time.
The Infant Nutrition Council of America, in a recent statement on its website, reassured parents that manufacturers are increasing production to meet families’ needs. The council also encourages parents to keep a supply or formula at home for 10 days to two weeks and urges them not to stockpile any products.