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Baby formula shortage is ‘very surreal’ and ‘not slowing down’: Bobbie CEO

Bobbie Co-Founder and CEO Laura Modi joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how her company's organic baby formula is hoping to ease supply concerns and accessibility issues stemming from the baby formula shortage.

Video transcript

SEANA SMITH: All right, well, the formula shortage, it's exposing a major issue. And that's that it is a market dominated by only a few big players. So our next guest is looking to change just that. We want to bring in Laura Modi, CEO and co-founder of Bobbie, and a maker of organic formula. It's also the fastest growing infant formula to enter the US market in decades. Laura, thanks so much for taking the time to join us.

LAURA MODI: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

SEANA SMITH: So give us a sense of where things stand. We've been talking about this for weeks. We've been covering the issue. It seems to be exacerbated over the last week or so. Where do things stand today? And do you see this shortage easing anytime soon?

LAURA MODI: I mean, look, at first, I need to kind of just speak on behalf of a mother. Like, I can empathize greatly with what everyone's going through. And as the CEO of a formula company, this moment is very surreal. And it's surreal because once the recall happened, we all felt this as an industry. For Bobbie, we saw our customer count double the first week of the recall. It hasn't slowed down since. And honestly, as we look ahead, we need to solve for it because it's not slowing down.

SEANA SMITH: So Laura, the question is-- and I'm a mother of a five-month-old, so I know exactly how this feels. I know the pain out there that so many mothers or caregivers are feeling. But how do we resolve this issue? Because you were saying that you have seen demand double. I was looking at the top of your website right now. It says that you're temporarily at capacity for new customers. So when does that change?

LAURA MODI: Yeah, I mean, one of the benefits that we had, being a direct to consumer business, is that we are a very unique lens into the demand versus supply. And I made a very tough call a few weeks ago. And I said, look, we can't serve more customers. And we have to make a decision to stop growing the business, while we serve our current Bobbie families. They deserve peace of mind that the product that they're putting their baby on they can continue to get.

Now, look, no one knows the intricacies of the marketplace more than I do after entering it two years ago. And it is complex. It is very complex. And what we do know is that just bringing more production into the market overnight is not the solution. That's the long-term fix. Immediately, we need to get more product into the country to be able to fill the gap that Apple has left.

SEANA SMITH: And Laura, we heard President Biden, the administration, looking to make some changes. We heard from the head of the FDA just in terms of what they're doing in order to get more product into the US. But you mentioned the fact that this is such a complex industry, and there are so many barriers up there right now for new entrants. If you could change one or two things that you think could potentially avoid this situation in the future, what would they be?

LAURA MODI: We need to resource the FDA more. I think being in a position where the FDA can get more entrants into the market, to be able to diversify it, will build the resiliency we need. But we haven't seen change in decades. I know myself the challenge of breaking into the industry is that we're balancing a very careful act of managing safety and speed. But here we are in a situation where we don't have enough formula. We have to accomplish both. So let's resource the FDA, get more companies online, and be able to diversify the market now.

SEANA SMITH: And Laura, when it comes to diversifying the market, Bobbie brings something to the market that we haven't seen, at least here in the US. And it's been compared to the formulas that are offered right now in Europe. It's been called a European style formula. What makes Bobbie different from Enfamil or some of the other more popular items here?

LAURA MODI: Yeah, look, this is an entirely personal journey. I went into motherhood, and I found myself disappointed with the options that were on the market. So kind of setting out on the journey to discover what was out there, we came across European formula. Between the ingredients and the recipe is really what it's modeled after. So between finding grass-fed dairy and high DHEA, it's really a gold standard formula.

SEANA SMITH: Laura, your formula tends to be more expensive, but I think that the shortage has kind of started the conversation or brought a little bit more attention to the conversation about how we increase access to formula, because there are a number of women out there, a number of caregivers, I should say, that are on their states' Women, Infants, and Children Program. How do we, from your view, from an insider here in this industry, I guess, what's the best way of going about increasing access to formula?

LAURA MODI: I mean, the first is to give more companies the opportunity to provide on WIC. One of the things that we've seen in the media cycle over the last few weeks is that a big population that is suffering are those on WIC, because they've only had access to maybe two or three different brands. So we don't have to reduce the quality and price of product if we're able to make it more affordable and accessible to the masses, like those on WIC.

SEANA SMITH: Laura Modi, great to have you. Thanks so much for taking the time, Bobbie co-founder and CEO.

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