A national shortage of baby formula brought on by pandemic-related supply-chain issues has forced US retailers such as Walgreens to ration the all-important product.
The company – the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the United States behind CVS – said Friday that amid the supply-chain crunch, it is limiting customers to three infant and toddler formula product purchases at a time, at its 9,021 US locations.
A company spokesperson told DailyMail.com that the restrictions, already in effect, stem from an ‘increased demand and various supplier issues,’ as it was revealed that 29 percent of all top-selling formulas are out of stock at stores across the nation.
The shortage of the product, which roughly three-quarters of infants in the US receive at some point within their first six months, has parents panicked.
‘I would normally buy four to six cans at times to get us through the month and I would have to limit that to two,’ Samantha Modely, of Memphis, told local outlet WREG-TV Thursday.
A national shortage of baby formula brought on by pandemic-related supply-chain issues has forced US retailers such as Walgreens to ration the all-important product. Pictured is a barren formula shelf at a big box store in January. The shortage has since worsened to crisis levels
The shortage of the product, which roughly three-quarters of infants in the US receive at some point within their first six months, has parents across the country panicked
‘My friend is about to have a baby in August, and I can’t imagine being worried about whether you’d be able to go to the local grocery store and grab what you needed it,’ the mom said.
‘We’ve noticed it being difficult to find maybe a couple months ago — two, three months ago — and then just recently we can’t find it,’ San Francisco resident Irene Anhoeck told CBS News of the shortage, which has affected stores across the country.
‘We’ve tried all the local Targets. We checked Costco, Costco online, Walgreens, Long’s,’ Anhoeck said. ‘Can’t find it anywhere.’
The shortage is being blamed on pandemic-related supply chain issues – which has spawned a backlog of billions of dollars of toys, clothing, electronics, vehicles, and furniture over the past year – as well as delivery disruptions caused by severe weather seen in the Deep South the past month.
A recent recall also compounded the issue in February, when Abbott, one of the four major American formula manufacturers, recalled a number of its products – including the popular Similac. Pictured is a currently out-of-stock Similac listing on Amazon
A recent recall also compounded the issue in February, when Abbott, one of the four major American formula manufacturers, recalled a number of its products – including its preeminent Similac formulas.
The recall – which focused on products that had been manufactured at its factory in Sturgis, Michigan – was spurred a possible contamination of Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacteria that could prove deadly to infants, the company said at the time.
Now, nearly two months later, the product is increasingly out of stock at retailers – both small and large – across the country.
An analysis by Datasembly, a company that chronicles billions of grocery and retail pricing records for stores in all 50 states, tracked baby formula stock at more than 11,000 stores, and found that 29 percent of top-selling baby formula products were out of stock as of the week of March 13.
A recent study that tracked baby formula stock at more than 11,000 stores found that 29 percent of top-selling baby formula products, including Enfamil (pictured), were out of stock as of the week of March 13
The marked increase is up 11 percent from November, when the supply chain crunch was at its height, due to a historically high demand for consumer goods during the pandemic, when an influx of Americans elected to stay home instead of spending money on travel and entertainment.
Other issues contributing to the bottleneck on America’s overseas supply line including a lack of manpower at US ports and restrictions that came with the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and 2021. These constraints, which included social distancing and mandatory quarantines, severely limited the number and ability of port workers, and thus hampered the flow of products, including formula, into The States.
Other supply-chain related issues spurring the formula shortage include an increased difficulty procuring key ingredients, along with packaging delays and labor shortages.
An out-of-stock Enfamil formula listing on Amazon on April 8. The shortage is being blamed on pandemic-related supply chain issues
An out-of-stock Gerber formula listing on Amazon on April 8
‘This is a shocking number that you don’t see for other categories,’ Ben Reich, CEO of Datasembly, told CBS of the study’s results, which he said are likely to worsen.
‘We’ve been tracking it over time and it’s going up dramatically. We see this category is being affected by economic conditions more dramatically than others,’ Reich said.
The probe by the retail tracker further found that in 24 US states, 30 percent of all formula was out of stock as of mid-March, while other states were seeing even worse shortages.
In Minnesota, for instance, a whopping 54 percent of baby formula products were out of stock.
Several states also saw shortages of more than 40 percent, the study revealed, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island, and Texas.
For reference, during the first seven months of 2021, only 2 to 8 percent of baby formula products were out of stock.
The American Deep and Mid-South have also been hit hard by the formula scarcity – compounded by a slew of storm systems that have ravaged states like Georgia, Mississippi, and North and South Carolina in recent weeks – with shelves once lined with the product now barren.
More than two years into the pandemic, the product is increasingly out of stock at retailers – both small and large – across the country. Pictured is an empty formula shelf in January
A spokesperson for CVS Health, America’s number-one pharmacy with 9,874 locations nationwide, in February was forced to acknowledge the shortage, saying ‘product supply challenges are currently impacting most of the retail industry.’
The company went on to assert that it is working with ‘national brand baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience that our customers may be experiencing.’
In January, Enfamil, on of the nation’s foremost baby formula brands, said it was grappling with an unprecedented 18 percent surge in demand for baby formula in the US.
‘We have taken steps to ramp up production and are currently shipping 50 percent more product, to address issues as fast as possible,’ a spokesperson for Reckitt, the manufacturer of Enfamil, said in a statement at the time.
The Infant Nutrition Council of America recently assured parents in a statement on its website that manufacturers are increasing production to meet families’ needs. The council also encourages parents to keep a 10-day to two-week supply or formula at home, while urging them not to stockpile products.