Coles limits baby formula access in supermarkets

By @chelean on
The Coles (main Wesfarmers brand) logo is seen on trolleys at a Coles supermarket in Sydney, Australia, February 20, 2018. Picture taken February 20, 2018.
The Coles (main Wesfarmers brand) logo is seen on trolleys at a Coles supermarket in Sydney, Australia, February 20, 2018. Picture taken February 20, 2018. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Coles has announced that it would be limiting access to baby formulas in store. They will be kept behind the counter, just like razors and cigarettes, at some supermarkets in New South Wales after growing customer concerns that Asian shoppers hoard the products.

One customer captured a sign at a Coles shop in Sydney, which reads, “Popular lines of baby formula will now be available from the service kiosk to provide equal opportunity for all customers and deter theft.” It also reminds customers that the two-per-customer rule still applies.

A spokeswoman from Coles also confirmed the move to Australian Associated Press, saying tins of infant formulas will now be kept on shelves behind service desks or tagged with Electronic Article Surveillance lids.

“Coles is committed to ensuring that our customers with a genuine need for infant formula have access to this product,” the statement said.

The restriction follows reports that some baby formula brands, worth around $25 to $35 per 1kg tin, are being sold to China for more than $100. This probably explains parent complaints that they couldn’t get their hands on their brands because Asian shoppers hoarded infant formulas from supermarkets.

According to reports, the demand of the products is fuelled by the “daigou” — or personal shoppers — trade in China, where there is low consumer trust in local dairy products. Some of the highly sought-after brands include A2, Katicare Aptamil and Bellamy’s Organic.

Meanwhile, Woolworths, which also has a two tin-per-customer rule on baby formulas, will not be following Coles’ new rule. Instead, it said it was working with suppliers to keep up with the demand.

“Coles is committed to ensuring that our customers with a genuine need for infant formula have access to this product,” a spokesman told AAP. “We’re continuing to work with our suppliers to increase the supply of these essential family items.”

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