Baby Formula Stocks Remain Low Despite Biden Admin Operation

Baby Formula Stocks Remain Low Despite Biden Admin Operation
Similac and Enfamil products on largely empty shelves in the baby formula section of a Target store, amid continuing nationwide shortages in infant and toddler formula, in San Diego, on May 25, 2022. (Bing Guan/Reuters)
Caden Pearson

U.S. stocks of baby formula are still at their lowest levels despite efforts by the Biden administration to fly shipments into the United States from other countries.

At the start of July the powdered milk product for infants hit their lowest ever levels this year, before improving only slightly the following week.

Citing data from market-research firm IRI, the Wall Street Journal reported that the out-of-stock rate reached as high as 30 percent in the week ending July 3. The following week that rate improved only slightly to 28.3 percent.
This stock level is worse than when the shortage crisis made headlines in May, when the out-of-stock rate was 23.7 percent in the week ending May 22—a decrease from the 40 percent it reached by the end of April, according to Datasembly.

“This issue has been compounded by supply chain challenges, product recalls, and historic inflation," said Ben Reich, CEO of Datasembly, a firm that collects real-time data from tens of thousands of retailers in North America.

Prior to the shortage, baby formula's out-of-stock rate sat around 5 percent.

Not only is there less baby formula stock overall in stores across America, but there's less brand options for customers to choose from, according to reports.

Since last year, U.S. stores are selling on average a smaller range of formula products per store, per week. In the four weeks to June 26, stores sold an average of 11 different products—down from a weekly average of 24 between 2018 and 2021, WSJ reported.

The stock availability "has not improved at all," according to Keith Milligan, controller of Piggly Wiggly stores in Georgia and Alabama, WSJ reported.

His stores are only carrying five out of the usual 30 formula products they sell.

White House Flying More In

On Monday, the White House announced that it was sourcing the equivalent of more than 800,000 standard 8-ounce bottles of Nestlé Health Science amino acid-based formula from Switzerland to New York on July 21 and 22.

The additional Operation Fly Formula flights are for standard and specialty formula for infants with special needs and will be distributed to hospitals and home health care providers.

The flights will transport Nestlé NAN® SupremePro 1, Nestlé NAN® SupremePro 2, Nestlé NAN® EXPERTpro SensiPro Premium Instant Starter Formula, Nestlé Health Science Alfamino® Infant, and Alfamino® Junior, Vitaflo PKU start™, Gerber® Good Start® Gentle and Gerber® Good Start® Extensive HA®, according to the White House.

President Joe Biden launched Operation Fly Formula in a bid to ease the pressures of the baby formula shortage that began when the United States' largest formula manufacturer was shut down in February after reports of bacterial infections in babies who had consumed products made at the facility.

Abbott Laboratories briefly reopened its Michigan plant early last month but had to shut it down after about two weeks due to thunderstorms and heavy rains.