US – Abbott Laboratories, one of the largest US-based baby formula manufacturers, is undertaking a project that will expand the production of EleCare specialty formula at the Sturgis plant in Michigan.
According to a staff report from the Sturgis Planning Commission, Abbott is set to build a 35,000 square foot expansion on its warehouse building, along with a 1,060 square foot water treatment room and a 12,548 square foot boiler and compressor addition.
The plans will also encompass circulation improvements and a new chemical drain for easier operations and workers’ welfare.
This is the same plant that has halted its operations for the better part of this year after being hit by floods and contamination concerns that led to a national baby formula shortage in the US market.
The shortage disproportionately hit lower-income mothers, as Abbott’s Similac was the main formula brand in many states for the government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The United States Department of Agriculture’s WIC covers more than 1.2 million infants who collectively consume 56% of formula nationwide, and provides monthly benefits to lower-income moms to buy baby formula, nutritious food, and groceries.
Following the inconvenience brought to the mothers, the US government is on plans to extend the through year-end waivers set to expire on Sept. 30, to avoid a steep drop in infant formula access.
In a similar investment statement, the laboratory is investing €440 million (US$450 million) in two facilities in Ireland in a bid to increase the production of its FreeStyle Libre technology.
Meanwhile, the US baby formula shortage is reported to be easing, with data from consumer-data company Datasembly, showing there were 25% more baby-formula products available nationwide compared to the peak of the shortage in late May.
The national average out-of-stock rates in stores and online stood at 61%, down from a peak of 86% for the week of May 29. Datasembly tracked 130,000 stores across North America.
In addition, the online consumer demand for baby formula products on Amazon increased by 121% year-on-year in August so far, a sharp contrast to a 2,369% year-on-year increase in May.
However, some states and cities continue to have high out-of-stock rates: 77% of baby-formula products were out of stock in Alaska and Delaware as of Monday; 75% and 71% were out of stock in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, respectively. Seattle and Oahu are experiencing out-of-stock rates above 78%.
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