The Baby Formula Shortage Really Is Getting Worse

More than half of states are struggling with baby formula shortages, in part due to recalls, as a growing number of products are out of stock on store shelves, according to a new report.

Shelves typically stocked with baby formula sit mostly empty at a store in San Antonio, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
A recall of baby formula made by Abbott Nutrition is at least partially behind the shortages.Eric Gay/AP Photo

If you’re a parent running from store to store in search of baby formula that’s missing from the shelves, you’re not alone. A new report suggests that baby formula supplies are limited in 26 states.

The report, published April 14 by?Datasembly, found that baby formula was out of stock 31 percent of the time as of April, up from 23 percent of the time in January. By comparison, the out-of-stock rate for formula was much lower, fluctuating between 2 percent and 8 percent, over the first half of 2021.

“Inflation, supply-chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” said Ben Reich, the founder and chief executive of Datasembly, in the report.

“We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions,” Reich said. “Baby formula stock has been one of the more affected categories so far in 2022, and one that will continue to demonstrate higher than average out-of-stock levels.”

As of early April, seven states had baby formula out-of-stock rates above 40 percent, including Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. At this point in time, another 20 states had baby formula out-of-stock rates between 30 percent and 40 percent.

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Some communities have been hit especially hard by these shortages.

Twelve major metro areas had out-of-stock rates above 40 percent, including: Baltimore, Charlotte, Des Moines, Greenville, Hartford and New Haven, Houston, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans and Mobile, Oahu, San Antonio, and Seattle.

Three major metro areas — Des Moines, Minneapolis, and San Antonio — had out-of-stock rates above 50 percent as of early April.

Shortages may not necessarily trigger dramatic price increases, however.

In January 2022, when the out-of-stock rate for all baby formula products was 3.3 percent, the average price was $23.47, according to the report. Even as the out-of-stock rate has climbed over the course of the year, prices have remained between about $24 and $26.

A recall of baby formula made by Abbott Nutrition is at least partially behind the shortages. In February the company issued a voluntary recall of several of its powdered infant formulas manufactured at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, including Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare.

Several major retailers are limiting baby formula purchases in response to shortages, and several types of formula are out of stock either in stores or online.