Shortage of infant formula worsens: 40% of top-selling products are out of stock

Infant formula is becoming even harder to find at retailers across the United States, amid a nationwide shortage of one of the most important products for new parents.

At retailers across the United States, 40% of top-selling baby formulas were out of stock in the week ending April 24. a new analysis from Datasembly, which has tracked baby formula stock at more than 11,000 stores, shows this. National stockout levels jumped nine percentage points from 31% to 40% between April 3 and April 24. That’s a big increase from November’s 11%.

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

The supply of infant formula was already so limited that retailers limited the number of products consumers are allowed to buy in order to preserve their stocks.

Rationing in stores

In April, drugstore chains Walgreens and CVS Health and department store Target limited the number of infant formulas consumers can purchase at one time.

A spokesperson for Walgreens told CBS MoneyWatch it is limiting customers to three infant and toddler formula per transaction, citing “increased demand and various supplier issues.”

CVS Health also said it has imposed a limit of three infant formulas per purchase in stores and online, until it can secure sufficient supplies from its suppliers.

And a Target spokesperson confirmed that it has product limitations in place. At, consumers can only purchase a maximum of four pieces of a given baby formula product at a time.

Formula prices, including three-quarters of babies in the United States receive during their first six months, also increased. The average cost of the most popular infant formulas has increased by 18% over the past 12 months.

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.

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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 six US states, more than 50% of infant formula was out of stock at the end of April. Parents in Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota are struggling with severe shortages of 50% to 51%, according to Datasembly. Out-of-stock levels are even higher in Missouri (52%), Texas (53%) and Tennessee (54%). At the same time, between 40% and 50% of infant formula was out of stock in 26 states.

“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 worsened further in February, when Abbott Nutrition Posted a widespread recall of its powdered baby 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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