Formula is getting harder and harder to find – CBS Baltimore

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(CNN) – Stores are struggling to quickly restock infant formula on the shelves as serious supply chain issues persist around the world.

Drugstore chain Walgreens, which operates more than 9,000 stores in the United States, said demand for infant formula was increasing nationwide as its suppliers struggled to fill orders quickly.

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“[This] can cause temporary and isolated shortages, ”said Emily Hartwig-Mekstan, spokesperson for Walgreens.

Walgreens said it frequently posts updates on product availability on its websites throughout the day.

“We are restocking stores as quickly as possible and continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands,” said Hartwig-Mekstan, adding that the retailer was meeting demand.

It’s not always easy for parents to swap one brand of formula for another, as some babies can develop an intolerance to specific brand ingredients.

Unit sales of powdered infant formula fell 1.7% year-over-year, according to market research firm IRI, which tracks point-of-sale data at retailers. Unit sales of liquid concentrated infant formula fell 18.3% year over year. IRI didn’t explain why the numbers were down – or so dramatically for the concentrate brands. Sales of both categories have plummeted in recent years.

But it’s hard to sell a lot of infant formula when you can’t get it or keep it on your store shelves.

Reckitt Benckiser, owner of Mead Johnson Nutrition (maker of infant formula Enfamil), said the company has sufficient supplies “to ensure that all babies can get the nutrition they need.”

The Infant Nutrition Council of America, whose members include formula makers Abbott Nutrition, Gerber Products Company, Perrigo Nutritionals and Reckitt, said its members are actively working to mitigate the impact of challenges currently affecting the supply chain. , transportation and distribution systems around the world.

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“This includes working with distributors, retailers and state agencies on innovative ways to ensure the availability and continued access to infant formula. Parents and caregivers need to make sure they get infant formula from a safe and reliable source, ”the group said in an email to CNN Business.

Gerber (a Nestlé brand), Perrigo, CVS and Target did not respond to requests for comment.

One of the most stolen items in stores
With infant formula, the problem of shortages in stores is compounded by the fact that it is also one of the most frequently stolen products in the retail trade.

A 2020 survey of 61 retailers in the National Retail Federation – the industry’s largest trading group – showed organized retail theft jumped nearly 60% from 2015 and costs stores an average of 719,548 $ for $ 1 billion in sales.

Organized retail crime involves a “gang” of people who steal entire shelves of products such as cosmetics, infant formula or fashionable jeans – not for personal consumption – but to resell them for profit. .

Some of the most stolen items from stores include designer clothes, laundry detergents, razors, deodorants and infant formula. Infant formula accounts for 13% of the most stolen items in stores, according to the NRF 2020 Retail Organized Crime Survey. With the formula, theft can be triggered both by personal need, inability to pay as well as by resale.

In August, a couple in Shelby County, Alabama, pleaded guilty to selling more than $ 300,000 in stolen infant formula online.

“Infant formula has become an item of choice for thieves because it is easy to resell quickly. More and more, we are seeing infant formula being resold online, ”said Jason Brewer, spokesperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association trade group. “[Theft] is definitely a factor [contributing to shortages] given the increase in thefts experienced by retailers.

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