A report by Channel 7 News yesterday showed a warehouse stocked with a large amount of sought-after baby formula, alleging the product had been bought at local supermarkets and is destined for the Chinese market.
It’s the latest development in what some are viewing as a baby formula crisis, and further proof that professional shoppers – known as daigou – are clearing supermarket shelves and stockpiling product in the name of profiteering.
7News reports that they found pallets, shopping bags and trolleys full of formula, and that the warehouse manager confirmed that the product was destined for overseas buyers.
“There are lots of companies that want to ship their parcels overseas, we just leave the formula here and it’s going there,” he said.
This stock-piling and reselling practice is perfectly legal, but it’s putting pressure on local families who can’t find their required formula, as supply at supermarkets dwindles.
Adding insult to injury
Considering the popularity and profitability of this kind of professional shopping, it’s not surprising that bulk ex-supermarket formula is being stored in these haphazard commercial set-ups, but it’s quite confronting to see the reality of these operations, especially if you’re a parent who’s driven around town looking for formula, returning empty-handed.
Supermarkets have attempted to address the problem, responding to the bulk-buying trend by introducing limits on the amount of formula people can buy in a single transaction. Some are even storing the most popular brand of formula behind the counter – or in store-rooms – in an effort to ensure local mums can access it when they need it. But while the four-tin limit seems like a deterrent, shoppers are simply returning to the store multiple times and buying up stock over a series of transactions.
It’s not hard to see why.
$3000 a week business
Last year, Business Insider reported that some daigou are making up to $3000 a week selling baby formula, vitamins and other health-related products to overseas buyers via the WeChat app.
The most popular brands of formula sell for at least three times the local price in China – often much, much more (some reported seeing tins of formula selling for hundreds of dollars online).
Demand for quality formula has even sparked the production of potentially dangerous counterfeit branded baby formula in Chinese markets, which seems unfathomable and downright evil considering an estimated 300,000 Chinese babies were poisoned – some fatally – after drinking contaminated formula in 2008.
It’s no wonder Chinese parents are keen to buy the best, genuine product to keep their little ones safe.
Thos is what happens every morning at Toowong Coles QLD, same people every day literally running into the store fighting each other grabbing as much baby formula as they possibly can leaving the entire shelf empty laughing at me thinking it's funny when I questioned them about it. What are you going to do about this Coles??
Posted by Cynthia Emma on Monday, 11 September 2017
There’s been plenty of photographic and video evidence shared on social media over the last couple of years, protesting the bulk buying of formula from Australian supermarkets.
Queensland mum Cindy Mackintosh recently filmed a video of a group of shoppers clearing out baby formula at her local supermarket (above). Cindy shared the footage on the Coles Facebook page, asking the chain what they planned to do about the escalating situation.
“This is what happens every morning at Toowong Coles QLD, same people every day literally running into the store fighting each other grabbing as much baby formula as they possibly can leaving the entire shelf empty laughing at me thinking it’s funny when I questioned them about it. What are you going to do about this Coles??”
Coles responded with a fairly standard statement, explaining their four tin limit and suggesting mums talk to their local store manager if they were having problems accessing the product they needed.
ATTENTION WOOLWORTHS!!!!! This was taken today at epping plaza Safeway, melbourne….. We are in a formula shortage and…
All babies matter?
It’s difficult to know how suppliers, supermarkets and daigou should respond to this growing battle for formula, especially when many Australian parents are reporting that the shelves are always empty when they try to buy much-needed product for their babies.
That said, surely all babies have a right to the sort of high-quality product that will ensure they thrive?
“Baby formula in china is of extremely poor quality and have resulted in sickness in infants,” one commenter on Cindy’s Facebook post explained. “Australian baby formula is of high quality, trust-worthy and beneficial. They send it back to their families overseas or sell it online.”
“After the incident in China where melamine was put in baby formula, and some kids died, the Chinese have gone nuts for Australian baby formula as it is safe. Consequently, some people are buying it bulk and either sending to family in China, or are making a quick buck by selling it for a huge profit. The current supply can’t meet the needs of both Australia and the giant, ever increasing Chinese population,” another commenter wrote.
It’s clear that this situation is a mess and that something drastic needs to be done to ensure that all the babies have the formula they need to be happy and healthy.
What are your thoughts on this tricky situation? Have you been unable to access the formula you need? Do you have experience of these “grey market” baby formula warehouses?