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The Infant Formula Market: Consequences of a Change in the WIC Contract Brand

Author

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  • Oliveira, Victor
  • Frazao, Elizabeth
  • Smallwood, David M.

Abstract

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is the major purchaser of infant formula in the United States. To reduce cost to the WIC program, each State awards a sole-source contract to a formula manufacturer to provide its product to WIC participants in the State. As part of the contract, the WIC State agency receives rebates from the manufacturers. In this study, we use 2004-09 Nielsen scanner-based retail sales data from over 7,000 stores in 30 States to examine the effect of winning a WIC sole-source contract on infant formula manufacturers’ market share in supermarkets. We find that the manufacturer holding the WIC contract brand accounted for the vast majority—84 percent—of all formula sold by the top three manufacturers. The impact of a switch in the manufacturer that holds the WIC contract was considerable. The market share of the manufacturer of the new WIC contract brand increased by an average 74 percentage points after winning the contract. Most of this increase was a direct effect of WIC recipients switching to the new WIC contract brand. However, manufacturers also realized a spillover effect from winning the WIC contract whereby sales of formula purchased outside of the program also increased.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliveira, Victor & Frazao, Elizabeth & Smallwood, David M., 2011. "The Infant Formula Market: Consequences of a Change in the WIC Contract Brand," Economic Research Report 118020, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersrr:118020
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    File URL: http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/118020/files/ERR124.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Oliveira, Victor & Frazao, Elizabeth & Smallwood, David M., 2010. "Rising Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program: Recent Trends in Rebates and Wholesale Prices," Economic Research Report 59384, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    2. Oliveira, Victor & Prell, Mark A. & Smallwood, David M. & Frazao, Elizabeth, 2004. "Wic And The Retail Price Of Infant Formula," Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Reports 33873, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    3. Oliveira, Victor & Davis, David E., 2006. "Recent Trends and Economic Issues in the WIC Infant Formula Rebate Program," Economic Research Report 7228, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rui Huang & Jeffrey Perloff, 2014. "WIC Contract Spillover Effects," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 44(1), pages 49-71, February.
    2. David Davis, 2014. "Buyer Alliances as Countervailing Power in WIC Infant-Formula Auctions," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 45(2), pages 121-138, September.

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    Keywords

    Industrial Organization; Institutional and Behavioral Economics; Marketing;

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