The national baby formula shortage began in early 2020, after safety concerns forced the shutdown of a major supplier’s flagship plant. The company, Abbott Labs, has since reopened the plant, and the White House has taken steps to alleviate supply chain logjams. However, almost nine months later, parents are still struggling to find some brands of baby formula. In this article, we will take a closer look at the ongoing supply chain issues and discuss why parents are still facing difficulty in finding their preferred brand of baby formula.
Statistics vs. Reality
Statistics show that formula stocks are almost back to where they were before the crisis began. However, journalist Helena Bottom Miller, who runs the food fixed newsletter, has found that the stocks on the shelves do not match with the statistics. Miller has done a lot of anecdotal research in stores and found that it is not hard to find barren shelves. Even her local grocery store, which is about two miles from the capital itself, has been 50% stocked throughout this situation.
The Variety of Formula
Miller explains that a big reason for this discrepancy is that infant formula makers are actually making far fewer types of formula to try to be more efficient to meet volumes and sort of meet this disrupted moment we’re in. This means that parents are seeing way less variety, and they’re not seeing as much of the particular brand or type that they might be looking for. This makes it feel like a shortage, even though there is enough formula to feed all of the babies.
Abbott Labs’ Impact
A big contributor to the shortage was Abbott Labs, which controls about 40% of the market share. They closed their biggest facility in Sturgis, Michigan. This facility was responsible for about 20% of infant formula production and the closure had a significant impact on the shortages that we have been seeing. However, Miller believes that we would have had some level of shortage even without the recall, as stocks were starting to get off before that, months before that.
White House’s Actions
The White House has taken a number of actions to alleviate the shortage, such as “Operation Fly Formula” and “Operation Warp Speed”. However, Miller believes that it is surprising that the shortages have gone on this long, and that store shelves still look disrupted in the fall and winter.
The national baby formula shortage has been a confusing situation for many parents. Statistics show that formula stocks are almost back to where they were before the crisis began, but parents are still facing difficulty in finding their preferred brand of baby formula. This is due to a number of factors, including a decrease in the variety of formula, the impact of Abbott Labs’ recall and shutdown, and the ongoing supply chain issues. The White House has taken steps to alleviate the shortage, but it is clear that the situation is still not fully resolved.