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🍼 We need more baby formula
May 18, 2022
PLUS: Marriott’s ad play, and Buffett’s favorite candy company.
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In today’s email:
Baby formula: Why it’s scarce and how it’s coming back.
Candy: Warren Buffett’s “dream” investment.
Marriott Media: Why a hotel is joining the ad game.
Around the web: An accelerator and incubator database, a photojournalist in Ukraine, and more cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s quick podcast to hear the whole crew talk about Marriott’s advertising play, McDonald’s “de-Arching” of Russia, what the Home Depot’s big quarter means for the housing market, and more.
The big idea
The baby formula shortage, explained
A baby formula shortage is scary. They can’t exactly make themselves a sandwich, and breastfeeding isn’t always a reliable solution. How’d such a crucial item wind up so scarce?
… an FDA investigation into infections in four infants, two of whom died, led to Abbott Nutrition’s plant in Michigan, where traces of the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii were found. This resulted in a recall of several of its brands while Abbott paused production.
It turns out, just four companies produce ~90% of all US formula and, among them, Abbott is responsible for about half.
This is partially rooted in WIC — a federal nutrition program that helps low-income families — which requires each state contract with just one manufacturer.
That domino fell against three more:
Formula sales boomed as pandemic shoppers hoarded in 2020. When sales fell back, manufacturers — unable to accurately predict demand — produced less, perThe Atlantic.
More babies were born in 2022, increasing demand.
US regulations for baby formula are so strict that most European formulas are illegal (even though European babies are fine), and US buyers risk shipments seized at customs. The foreign formula the FDA allows often comes with a high import tax.
This all led to national out-of-stock rates of 40%+. Some parents were left scrambling, while retailers began limiting purchases.
What about breastfeeding?
Contrary to Bette Middler’s controversial tweet, it’s not always “free and available on demand.”
Some people don’t produce enough milk. Others — like those undergoing chemotherapy — can’t breastfeed. Some babies require special formulas or are adopted by parents who aren’t lactating.
Breastfeeding also costs an estimated $950/yr. in supplies, compared to $1.2k/yr. for formula — not including the mental and physical health effects or time spent doing it.
Abbott and the FDA reached an agreement to safely reopen the plant in as soon as two weeks, which would put formula on shelves in six to eight.
The FDA also announced “increased flexibilities” for foreign imports and formulas typically made for export in the US.
And more broadly, the crisis has some legislators calling for more scrutiny into the very consolidated market known as “Big Bottle.”
BTW: Poynter has compiled a list of resources and recommendations for parents here.
No hesitation: Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed will not hesitate to keep raising interest rates until inflation comes down and prices return to a healthy level.
NFTunes: Spotify is letting select artists promote NFTs on their Spotify profiles. Artists participating in the test include Steve Aoki and The Wombats.
Raises coming: Microsoft doubled its budget for raises and increased the level of stock-based compensation by 25% for employees below the senior director level. CEO Satya Nadella said the moves are an effort to retain top talent.
Delayed: Apple is pushing back plans to have workers return to the office three days per week due to a rise in covid cases. The company is also requiring masks for employees at 100 stores in the US.
Surprisingly, our voices are bearable. Among the 3.2m+ podcasts on Spotify, The Hustle Daily Show was chosen as this week’s top pick to stay informed on the news.
Pop-up shops were a $50B-80B industry pre-pandemic, and now they’re ripe for a post-covid comeback. Our Trends team outlined how ecommerce businesses can capitalize.
Delicious: Over half of online grocer Umamicart’s sales come from shoppable recipes, allowing customers to quickly add everything they need for East and Southeast Asian meals to their carts. #ecommerce-retail
DIY: A nun in the Democratic Republic of the Congo grew weary of constant power outages and built her own hydroelectric plant. It powers a convent, church, clinic, and two schools. #clean-energy
Life on Mars? NASA is convening a team of researchers to explore how life evolved from single-celled organisms on Earth in the hopes of finding potential life on other planets. #emerging-tech
Link-in-bio platform Linktree has partnered with NFT marketplace OpenSea on new features that will allow creators to display and sell their NFTs. #fintech-crypto
Space stock: As Elon Musk continues to fuss over his Twitter bid, SpaceX plans to sell shares to employees at $70 each, valuing the company at $125B. #big-tech
The small candy company that’s Warren Buffett’s ‘dream’ investment
If investing were a video game, you might suspect Warren Buffett of using a cheat code.
His holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, boasts $969B in total assets.
It owns companies in dozens of industries, ranging from insurance (Geico) to underwear (Fruit of the Loom), and maintains a $340B+ stock portfolio.
But Buffett’s favorite investment isn’t in the Fortune 500: It’s a small candy company that he bought 50 years ago that represents less than 0.1% of Berkshire’s holdings.
He frequently brings up the company in interviews and even keeps a box of the candymaker’s peanut brittle on hand at shareholder meetings.
In an era that prizes flashy, fast-paced investments, the story of See’s Candies reminds us that a company’s true value can’t always be quantified on a balance sheet.
As third-party tracking has grown more difficult (thanks, Apple), a slew of companies have entered the advertising game.
Among them — Walmart, CVS, and Macy’s — all tout their ability to target consumers based on their own first-party data.
Now, Marriott International is doing the same, per WSJ, and there’s reason to believe the hotel juggernaut will be successful.
Marriott Media Network…
… will let brands target consumers on Marriott’s app, through TVs in its hotel rooms, and in hotel lobbies, gyms, and bars.
As a travel company, Marriott offers brands a unique value proposition: access to consumers who have specific needs, like ground transportation, restaurants, and entertainment options in the city they’re visiting.
Google Travel combines Google Maps, Google Flights, and other tools to help users plan their next trip
Uber recently announced it would allow users to book planes, trains, buses, and car rentals through its app this year
Airbnb offers trip planning features through its Experiences tab along with a wide range of places to stay
Marriott’s biggest differentiator…
… is its rewards program, which counts 164m members and is renowned for its cultish loyalty.
The program allows Marriott to know when its members are traveling, which means brands will likely be able to target travelers before their trip, and while they’re captive in Marriott’s quarters.
For more, check out why sports writers love Marriott more than just about anything.
Social Media Workbook: It’s not homework, you’re just bettering yourself. Sharpen your approach to content strategy and audience engagement with this bundle of activities curated by the pros at HubSpot Academy.
AROUND THE WEB
📈 On this day: In 2012, Facebook went public for $38 a share. On Tuesday, it closes at $202.62.
🤓 Useful:Accelerator Hunt is a database of accelerators and incubators for your startup.
📷 That’s interesting: A photojournalist traveled to Ukraine to document those who stayed in their homes after Russia’s attack.
🌟 Cure boredom: This game asks you to guess the price of various celeb videos on Cameo.
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