C&B Callers on the Baby Formula Shortage

11 May 2022

CLAY: Buck, this baby formula shortage is becoming a bigger and bigger story. And we put out kind of the Bat Signal to see what kind of experiences you got all over the country might be having as you are going out and trying to purchase baby formula. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger story as more and more people realize how pronounced it truly is. 1-800-282-2882. Buck, I think we got a bunch of people who want to weigh in on what this experience has been like.

BUCK: Lines are lit. Let’s get to it. Tom in Alabama on the baby formula situation. What’s going on, Tom?

CALLER: Hey, I was a big Rush supporter. I want to thank you guys for carrying the torch for him. God bless you for doing what you do.

BUCK: Thank you.

CLAY: Thank you.

CALLER: With the baby shortage, I’m retired military and I drive a truck. I’m a local truck driver. The baby formula is not affecting me per se. It’s my daughter. My grandbaby, she’s four months old. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama. I live in the southeastern part of the state. In the Birmingham area, my daughter and her husband, they can’t find baby formula.

CLAY: We’re talking about a big city in Birmingham — by the way, a lot of you listen there, we’re number one in that market — and so your daughter is having to drive around, I’m assuming all different sorts of places. Where ordinarily you’d be able to go to one, you might have to go to four or five or more to try to find baby formula.

CALLER: Yes, sir. And when we can, when we can find it, which has been rare, I mail formula to her, the dry, the powder formula, but it’s a little bigger than just formula. A lot of children like my granddaughter, she has digestive problems. And there’s different kinds.

BUCK: There are different brands of formula, right, specific formula?

CALLER: Yeah, it’s just not there, it’s not on the shelf.

CLAY: Would you have ever believed, by the way, that you and your wife would be not just to help but to deal with this crisis that is hitting the country right now, that you’d be having to shop for baby formula for your granddaughter because your own daughter couldn’t find it in Birmingham?

CALLER: No, sir, I never thought I would ever have to do that. I never thought I’d have to see my country in this shape either.

BUCK: Thanks for calling from Alabama and sharing your thoughts. We got another Clay and Buck team trucker here, I think. Fred in California. Hey, Fred, how you doing?

CALLER: Yes, sir. Good to hear from you, Clay and Buck. I’ve been trying to get formula now. My daughter had the baby Friday. So it’s only been about three or four days, but I’ve gone to probably, oh, I’d say 10 different stores, and I got lucky. They had a shipment while you was standing there come in; so I bought the two small cases that they had. But, you know, I’m still —

CLAY: Where are you in California? What part of the country? Where are you going around that you had to go to 10 places to find formula?

CALLER: Santa Barbara.

BUCK: You would think that —

CLAY: Yeah. This is crazy.

BUCK: Yeah, you would think that they would be able to have supply chain more efficient than this and it’s just nuts. Fred, thanks for calling in from Santa Barbara. Mike in Savannah, Georgia, one of my favorite towns. Hey, Mike.

CALLER: Hey, how are you?

BUCK: Good.

CALLER: So to everybody else’s point, like I live in Savannah really just south of Savannah, but, you know, hitting a bunch of places and I went up to the Bluffton Sam’s Club yesterday, didn’t have the right brand, but honestly I would rather not have my child starving. So I bought an off brand, you know, different form of Similac. But the shelf is about 70 feet long, and I would tell you that it was four-fifths of the way empty, nothing on the shelf, bone dry. Usually, you got pallets of this stuff in a place like that, and those places get this stuff first.

CLAY: This is crazy, Buck. I mean, we’re talking about the width and breadth of the company. We got just right now in Alabama, in South Carolina, in Santa Barbara, California, people looking. It’s the same story everywhere.

BUCK: Mike, thanks for calling in from Savannah. Clay, I just think it’s worth pointing out here, we can point to high steak prices or high milk peruse or things and that’s hurting people’s bottom line. That’s annoying, it’s frustrating, it puts more stress on families. Can you think of a food product that is more essentially to —


BUCK: — have in stock of all the veggies and fruits and dairy and meat?

CLAY: Yeah, it’s a great point.

BUCK: Is anything that is more essential to have on the shelf that is a food than baby formula?


BUCK: I don’t know if one exists.

CLAY: It’s number one on the list of things that you can’t compensate for. We’re making fun of the Succession guy, Cromwell who was supergluing himself to the counter. But much of what we buy is fungible. That is, if you go in to buy Gatorade and they don’t have Gatorade, you can buy Powerade, right?

BUCK: Clay, when they run out of your Mountain Dew, what is your number two?

CLAY: Mello Yello. For the Southerners out there will know exactly what I’m talking about. So, yes, there are lots of products that are fungible. Baby formula isn’t one of them. You have to have it, and of all the things that there could be a shortage of, I’m not sure that we could point to anything. And, Buck, what I get nervous about is when you look at what’s going on in Shanghai, I feel like supply chain crises are going to get worse.

And we saw this with toilet paper which, by the way, I don’t think anybody… If you run out of toilet paper, you run out. But when people see these shortages, the shortages get worse ’cause people go in and they say, “Well, I may not need it right now but I definitely gonna need it in the future,” and that’s why I think this baby formula thing is likely to get really massively worse in a hurry for that exact reason.

BUCK: Well, if this could happen to baby formula — and I do know that there was a specific incident that one major baby formula company had.

CLAY: Abbott Laboratories had an issue.

BUCK: Had a recall.

CLAY: Yeah. ‘Cause I think a couple of babies died from their product.

BUCK: Correct. There was a bacteria. There was some kind of a bacteria that they were worried had tainted the baby formula. But I don’t think anybody would expected that if one baby formula company has a recall now you’re driving —

CLAY: Coast to coast.

BUCK: — three hours coast to coast across the country to try to find baby formula, right? Just goes to show you how fragile our supply chains are, how honestly how fragile different components of the economy right now are. You start to think about it. I talk to small business owners; one in particular recently was saying the consumer hasn’t even really felt the full impact of the price raises, the rise in price that they’re gonna see for the things that they’re buying all the time because it’s just making its way into stuff.

CLAY: Yeah.

BUCK: Just like inflation has been creeping and creeping and now all of a sudden it’s really hitting, supply chain issue, price of goods, this is gonna be big problem for us.

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