With Chinese visitors, students, and Australian online retailers and profiteers snapping up baby formula to ship to China at huge profits of up to 100 to 200 percent, Australian consumers were faced with a major shortage of natural and organic baby formula products on the shelves of large Australian supermarket and pharmacy retailers in the second half of 2015.

A run on sales of infant formula was attributed in some media to Chinese visitors who, apparently concerned over domestic food safety standards, are believed to be buying in bulk.


The baby formula shortage, which has been an issue for Australian mothers, led to the country’s two largest supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths introduce measures in November to limit numbers of units from around eight, to four and two per customer.

Woolworths said it understands the frustration that clients can feel when they can’t get the products they need, baby formula in particular.

“We know that the vast majority of our customers purchase four or fewer tins of formula per transaction. As such we will reduce our long-standing limit of eight tins to four,” Woolworths said. The company said it has been working to increase the supply of baby food.

Reports said that popular premium, natural and organic brands such as A2 Platinum, Aptamil, Karicare and Bellamy’s Organic were in high demand. And US baby formula maker Hain Celestial recently announced it has started selling organic infant formula into Hong Kong and China through Hutchison Hain Organic Holdings Limited, a joint venture with Hong Kong-based Hutchison division Chi-Med.

In China, the baby formula demand goes back to the 2008 scandal when milk formula was poisoned with melamine. Chinese authorities then said that the Chinese dairy giant Sanlu Group was to blame for using milk formula contaminated with the chemical melamine, with over 6200 babies falling ill and six dying.

Since around 2000, with the influx of Chinese tourists into Australia, Australian pharmacy retailers have reported a run on sales of vitamins and health supplements. In recent years, Australian manufacturers have stepped up production to cater for increased demand in China.

Baby foods companies with an interest in the vast Asian country may consider exhibiting at BIOFACH China in Shanghai. The event is one of the sister shows of BIOFACH, the world’s biggest organic trade fair held annually in Nürnberg, Germany. NürnbergMesse and the China Green Food Development Center organize BIOFACH China since 2007. Under the patronage of IFOAM, it is the only trade fair in the country to display certified organic products.

In 2015, BIOFACH China presented 341 exhibitors from 15 countries and regions in the new venue – the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center (SWEECC). As the top runner of Asia organic industry, BIOFACH China attracted this year 16,742 visitors from 49 countries and regions. Next year, BIOFACH China will be held from 26–28 May at the SWEECC.