'Crazy' Baby Formula Scenes Prompts Woolworths To Crack Down On Limits
Hoards of people were lining up to buy baby formula from the brand a2, before the product was even on the shelf.
At the Box Hill store in Victoria, the line snaked past the meat section, where people were waiting for an hour or more to get a hold of the baby formula.
"Some in line were sitting on products that had been placed on the floor layouts, leaning on the shelves and making themselves at home waiting for this stock that might not even be put out," eyewitness Nay Fenwick told ten daily.
Similar scenes had played out just two days earlier at the Chadstone Woolworths, where about 50 shoppers were lining up with boxes.
“There was a line from one end of the supermarket to the other full of people carrying boxes of baby formula," eyewitness Ben Barak told News Corp.
The footage he posted to Reddit went viral. "I had no idea it was this bad," one commenter wrote. "No wonder there are constantly desperate parents on the Facebook mummy groups asking around if any stores have any formula."
In response to the video, Woolies has drastically reduced the number of tins customers can buy at one time, reverting the limit from eight tins back to two.
The changes will come into effect from next week, a spokesperson told ten daily.
"We'll closely monitor our on shelf availability and feedback from customers as we make this adjustment," they said.
One reason there's a seemingly never-ending cycle of shoppers buying out a2 products is because there's such hot demand from China, where local products are viewed with suspicion.
A 'Daigou Trade' of Chinese shoppers overseas buy products in order to resell them back home.
It's not enough for middle class Chinese parents to simply buy a2 products through cross-boarder companies like Alibaba, said an a2 spoksperson.
"They need to see the receipt from an Australian Woolworths or Coles," he said.
There's a huge hangover of fear from a number of food tampering scandals, including the 2008 baby formula crisis when six infants died and hundreds of thousands fell ill after consuming product containing melamine.
And it's put a2 in a slightly difficult cycle to break out of: overwhelming demand for its product via a black market trade means that sales are through the roof, but customers are unhappy.
CEO Peter Nathan has said any Australian parent unable to buy a2 should contact the company directly and it will deliver the product.
Meanwhile, the growing middle class in China, the change from a one child policy to two, and the craze for a2 products spreading from 'Tier 1' cities out to Tier 2, 3 and 4 cities are all driving this growing demand, said a spokesperson.
The brand has also dramatically increased production, with factories going 24 hours per day.
"But as fast as we increase production," said the spokesperson, "the product sells out."
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Lead photo: Nay Fenwick