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November 12, 2015

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Sales event sees baby milk dry up in Australia

AN Australian company has apologized to mothers after its premium organic baby milk formula flew off supermarket shelves ahead of China’s Singles Day buying frenzy yesterday.

Consumers spent US$9 billion in the first 12 hours of the 24-hour retailing bonanza, with infant formula maker Bellamy’s Organic caught up its wake.

Bellamy’s apologized to its Australian customers on Facebook on Tuesday after complaints they were unable to buy the formula, nicknamed “white gold.”

“We understand ... it is difficult to source our products and acknowledge the frustration this causes,” it said.

Bellamy’s chief executive Laura McBain said the huge demand from China had “taken us by surprise.”

“As a result, supermarket shelves in Australia are being wiped out. We didn’t anticipate we’d have a situation where mums couldn’t access our products,” McBain told the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.

The shortage of products in Australian stores is believed to be caused by some customers buying the formula in bulk and then reselling them online to Chinese shoppers.

Food scares

Demand for foreign infant milk products has soared following a series of food scares in China, including a 2008 scandal over locally produced tainted formula that left six children dead and made more than 300,000 ill.

Brand owner Bellamy’s Australia, which listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in August last year, has seen its shares rocket from its A$1 (70 US cents) offer price to trade above A$10 in just 15 months.

IG Markets’ analyst Angus Nicholson said the rise was a reflection of the demand for “new China stocks” — companies that cater to the country’s middle class consumers.

“It’s almost been completely impossible for consumers in Australia and New Zealand to get hold of infant formula powder ... because it’s all been shipped off to China for this bulk-buying on online sales websites.”

Nicholson said other Australian firms, such as vitamins and supplements maker Blackmores, have also seen their stocks perform “very strongly.”

“Singles Day” was first marketed as an “anti-Valentine’s Day” in China and featured hefty discounts to lure the country’s singletons and price-sensitive buyers.


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