EXCLUSIVE -Enfamil maker Reckitt sees formula shortage continuing until Spring

(Adds further comment from Reckitt executive)

LONDON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - A shortage of infant formula that has hit the United States for most of this year - prompting White House intervention - is likely to “persist to some degree” until spring, according to the maker of Enfamil, now the biggest brand in the market.

Earlier this year, baby formula aisles at supermarkets were emptied by panicked parents after former top U.S. manufacturer Abbott Laboratories in February recalled dozens of types of its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas. The products, which were made at a plant in Michigan, were pulled after complaints of bacterial infections.

Supermarkets like Target and Walgreens Boots Alliance were forced to limit sales of formula, putting pressure on the Biden administration to address the crisis. The White House in May took steps to address the shortage, invoking the Defense Production Act to help manufacturers obtain the ingredients needed to ramp up supply.

Supplies are yet to return to normal since the peak of the crisis in May and June, despite the U.S. making progress in replenishing stocks, said Robert Cleveland, Reckitt’s senior vice president, North America and Europe Nutrition.

“I suspect that will persist to some degree until the spring resets,” he said. “Really, when we talk about the crisis we talk about the condition of the shelves and how they appear to consumers, and how well that shelf meets their needs.”

Rival manufacturer Perrigo Company Plc declined to comment, while Danone, maker of Aptamil, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reckitt, whose share of the U.S. infant formula market has skyrocketed since the recall to make it the no.1 supplier in the market, said it has yet to see its newfound popularity recede. The company’s share of just over 50% of the market has “remained relatively unchanged”, Cleveland said. (Reporting by Richa Naidu in London. Additional reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Matt Scuffham)