If an 8.5% inflation rate wasn’t enough, parents across the country are now struggling to find formula on the shelves of local grocery stores and on-line retailers. Data released from Datasembly reveals climbing trends for formula shortages, as April closed out with a 31% out-of-stock rate. Datasembly founder and CEO Ben Reich cited inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls as factors behind the volatility in supply.
In the first week of April, 7 states reportedly saw out-of-stock rates exceeding 40%. Three metropolitan areas (Des Moines, Minneapolis, and San Antonio) experienced rates over 50% during the same time frame. Supply chain professor Rachna Shah told the Wall Street Journal last week that she expects the shortages to get worse before they get better, suggesting also that panic buying and hoarding could further exacerbate the already short supply.
Stores and online retailers are responding to demand by instituting purchase limits on baby formula. Customers are limited to five cans per day at Walmart, and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have limited purchase to just three products. Target’s website also lists a cap on baby formula at just four cans.
Recalls issued by Abbott Laboratories further aggravated the shortages, as the formula maker issued recalls for certain products earlier this year after five infants became sick following consumption of the formula. Two of those five babies hospitalized with infections died. One Michigan plant believed to be at the center of the recall has since closed, placing continued strain on production and supply of baby formula.
Approximately 75% of babies in the United States consume formula in their first six months of life, leaving many families impacted. The Infant Nutrition Council of American meanwhile urges parents and caregivers to exercise caution in sourcing formula. Local food pantries, churches, shelters, and hospital emergency rooms may be able to provide samples or small amounts contingent on need.