Keeping Families Safe: Identifying Cons Shipping Baby Probiotics

Blogs | March 23, 2021

The Client: 
A global purveyor of food and other essential products for babies and toddlers. It has nearly 200 products in its portfolio and operates in 80 countries. Our focus for this project was on its probiotic drops recommended for colic reduction, healthy digestion support, and regularity in infants and toddlers. Parents often give this product to their children to relieve gastrointestinal issues as needed, sometimes daily. 

The Situation: 
POTOO has been working with the client for the last two years. Our team was tasked with conducting test buys for the brand’s infant probiotic drops. Due to the sensitive nature of the product, our goal was to ensure that proper shipping protocols were being followed by third-party sellers to mitigate any potential health hazards to young children. Since probiotics are live bacteria, they should be stored and shipped under refrigerated conditions (not exceeding 85°F) otherwise they will become ineffective. If refrigeration is not available, insulated coolers with gel cold packs and express shipping are recommended as an alternative. 

Best Practices When Shipping Consumables:
Brands selling consumable products, especially food and beverages, should be hyper-aware of who is selling their products and how they are arriving at the consumer. There are several things to consider when sending consumables through the mail and many things that could go awry.  This includes spilled items, spoiled items, expired items, etc. Factors such as temperature, humidity, and packing convention are all things to consider when shipping consumable products. Helping our clients monitor their 3P sellers and their adherence to necessary shipping protocols is crucial. POTOO is constantly monitoring online marketplaces to ensure that third-party sellers have consumer health and safety as a top priority. 

Amazon’s Policy:
Amazon does not directly police shipping from third-parties, sellers must refer to Amazon’s Shipping Guidelines for each item type in addition to whatever delivery service the seller plans to use (ie: USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.). Not only do shipping companies have rules in place to protect consumers, but sellers must also adhere to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s standards as well. There are strict rules in place to protect food and beverages from contamination or expiration during transit. Sellers who do not follow the rules face regulatory action. 

The POTOO team conducted a series of test buys to check for:
* Expiration dates
* International sales
* Rush-delivery dates
* Watertight packaging
* Proper insulation/padding on packaging
* Inclusion of administration paperwork
* Damaged and tampered with packaging
* Cold ship protocols (ice packs and temperature-controlled storage)
* Proper labeling for probiotics/perishable products

Once issues were uncovered from the initial test buys, the client used the POTOO Dashboard to track non-compliant sellers. Using the seller information data, we were able to contact these sellers to alert them to the issues. At this point, sellers either addressed the issue or the problem was escalated to Amazon Brand Registry. We also alerted the United States Postal Service or associated shipping carriers of the non-compliance issues when necessary.

From the test buy findings, we noticed that not all of the probiotic drops were being shipped with ice packs or proper insulation and some items arrived spoiled. We also discovered that some products were being sold overseas when the item is not currently approved for international shipping. Our team created a unique tracking system to audit unauthorized cross-border sellers. Consumers were also reporting some negative reviews online related to products arriving opened or spoiled. 

Over the course of the program, POTOO identified approximately 15 non-compliant shipments. Our team alerted Brand Registry to the violations which resulted in a drastic reduction of unauthorized sellers by approximately 72%. We continue to monitor these issues for the brand regularly to avoid any future health threats to babies and young children. 

Is your brand plagued by 3P sellers improperly shipping your products on the marketplace? Connect with one of our eCommerce experts today to learn more about how we can support your team.

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