By Jessica DiNapoli and Richa Naidu
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -French consumer goods company Danone's North America unit said on Wednesday it had shipped more than 750,000 cans of its flagship Aptamil baby formula to the United States from Europe as a nationwide shortage persists, with another 550,000 cans on the way.
While Aptamil is little known in the United States, it is a major brand in Europe, where Danone is a dominant force in the market. The move to introduce Aptamil to American parents could give Danone, a relatively small U.S. player, the opportunity to grab market share from leaders Reckitt Benckiser and Abbott Laboratories.
The additional 550,000 Aptamil cans that are en route from New Zealand will likely be available in August, while the initial shipments are already on shelves and online at Walgreens, Safeway and some other stores.
Danone also said it had imported more than 500,000 cans of Neocate, a specialized medical baby formula.
Abbott recalled dozens of brands of baby formula in February, sparking one of the biggest food shortages in recent American history. Since then, the U.S. government and Food and Drug Administration have made it easier for manufacturers to get shipments into the country, and appealed to companies such as Nestle and Reckitt to step up production.
In-stock rates of infant formula remain far below normal levels, at about 70% for the week ended July 24, according to data from research firm IRI. In-stock rates have remained around 70% since the end of June, according to IRI.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu and Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Mark Potter and Bill Berkrot)