Profiting from baby formula: fair game or no way?

I was at Woolies yesterday and I witnessed an extraordinary scene.

Towards the end of the baby aisle, where the nappies start giving way to pet food, were two people involved in an argument.

Or more accurately: one person was trying to avoid listening. The other was yelling at full pelt!


Why the fracas? Because one person had a trolley full of baby formula. He must have had 15 or 20 tins in there, despite the sign clearly stating, “No more than four tins per person”.

No, the man wasn’t a parent of quintuplets and no, he didn’t work at a childcare facility.

It was just plain old greed at play: he was looking to make a profit.

In case you weren’t aware, Australian baby formula is very sought after in China. Our standards are apparently much higher in Australia than they are in China – where they are still trying to move past the atrocious tragedy in 2008, when six babies died and hundreds of thousands were impacted by baby formula made with melamine.

Since then, demand for Australian formula has never been higher.

So much so, that parents are willing to pay through the nose for it.

Some deal-makers have reported that they’re making upwards of $2-3000 per week, selling formula to parents – apparently, Bellamy’s Organic fetches the highest price.

Supermarkets have tried to combat the lucrative trade by restricting formula sales to four tins per person, but they don’t appear to enforce those rules.

Which is what led a member of the public to yell at a perfect stranger at a suburban supermarket yesterday.

Eventually a store employee came over, and I began chatting with ‘the yeller’ as the scene died down.

“It just makes my blood boil,” she said, visibly shaking. “I’ve had to drive to five different supermarkets in the past to get formula for my daughter, because they’re always sold out – it’s not right. And if the supermarket’s not going to say anything to them, I will!”

For the record, in this instance the customer was restricted to four tins of formula, although who’s to say he didn’t just wander back in half an hour later to top up his stocks?

And what do you think anyway: is it fair game to clear the shelves for those savvy enough to make a profit? Or should all shoppers be restricted to four tins of formula, in the interests of fairness?