Manufacturers and retailers both pointing the finger at each other for the shortage. Joan Driggs, the VP of content and thought leadership for IRI market research company, explains.
Alex Livingston: So, what are some of the contributing factors that are causing baby formula shortages at some retail locations?
Joan Driggs: I think it's a couple of things. First of all, it's a far different purchase than anything else that you buy in the store. There are shared supply chain challenges all across the board with Omicron trying to keep, or keeping truckers off the roads, keeping people out of stores able to stock the shelves, keeping people in manufacturing plants away from work. So that's shared across the entire supply chain. But what's unique to baby formula is that it's such an emotional purchase. You know, this is not buying breakfast cereal for the family where if your preferred brand or your preferred size isn't available, you can find other options that will tie you over. This is something that you really, these caregivers, these parents, and others really depend on for the baby's nourishment and it's not an inexpensive purchase.
Alex Livingston: You know, and that is so true. I didn't even think about that last part that you mentioned, but your data showed that Americans spent $4.3 billion in 2020, and 4.5% from that's up 4.5%. So how has the pandemic in particular played a role in the need for formula?
Joan Driggs: I think that it's not necessarily the pandemic, that's putting the need for formula, the need for formula is always going to be there, it makes me laugh like when we talked about the pandemic at the outside, people went off and bought bottled water and bottled water wasn't an issue, this is strictly just to keep people, you know, babies nourished and I think what happens and why there is maybe more purchase is because of the tighter supply.
If you're someone shopping for baby formula and you see that there are only a couple of cans of your 20 or 30-ounce baby formula that you really prefer, you're probably going to buy them if you can afford to because you're afraid that the next time you go to the store it won't be there and that's exacerbating the problem.
Alex Livingston: Yeah. So, what do you think is the solution then to this issue I think a lot of it is it's out there like in some way shape, or form, it's probably out there?
Joan Driggs: Every manufacturer wants to ensure that their customers are happy. Every retailer wants to ensure that their customers are happy. So, I think it really will be dependent on manufacturers making sure that they're getting their most preferred brands out there and then consumers understanding if the size that they prefer or the format that they prefer isn't available like one of the really growing categories, same formula but in ready to drink has been hit just as hard or even a little harder because it's so convenient.
Alex Livingston: So, if you have to mix your own, that's a solution, interesting. Okay, so we have about 30 seconds left so really quickly, what does your data predict about the demand for baby formula over the next year?
Joan Driggs: I think again across the board, things are going to level off as manufacturers get their full production up to speed as our supply chain keeps rolling and as retailers are able to stock those shelves, but for now people just have to be a little bit more patient shop around as best they can, and of course maybe try not to stockpile, which would help the whole thing level off.