However, with oil costs driving plastic costs up and with concerns about
environmental impact, two of the nation's largest retailers, Wal-Mart
and Costco, decided to give the old fashioned milk jug a green makeover.
Enter the stackable
milk jug. The new milk jug is a bulk cylinder, without the tapered
top of the standard jug. The plastic composition has also changed and
benefits are tremendous. The square design allows it to be packed more
tightly saving shelf space and shipping costs. Companies are passing on the
savings. The cost of the average jug was $2.18 to $2.58 a gallon.
On average they were around 10 to 20 cents a gallon cheaper than traditional
Another benefit is that filling the jugs at the farm processing facilities
takes less labor as they can be stacked. With traditional designs, crates
were used during filling and shipping, which were unwieldy and space
consuming. There were also sanitary concerns about the crates used to
transport the classic design. Dan Soehnlen, president of Superior Dairy
states, "Birds roost on them."
Sam’s Club is impressed by the benefits of the jug and has been demoing it with
plans for a full-scale adoption.
Some customers appreciate the ergonomics of the new design, which allow for
better fridge utilization. "With the new refrigerators with the shelf in
the door, these fit nice," said Sam's Club shopper April Buchanan.
How did the new container come about? Here the story returns to Mr.
Soehnlen and Superior Dairy, which spun off a unit called Creative Edge which
creates food packaging. They devised the clever jug which can be packed
tightly with no crates. They think that one of its strongest points is
that it allows for faster packing, allowing the milk to arrive at markets
The gains are staggering. They have cut their labor costs in half and
their water costs (used to wash the crates mainly, formerly) by 60 to 70
percent. Meanwhile, they now only need two trips a week to each Sam's
Club store, instead of five. And Sam's Club is happy as it can now store
224 gallons of milk in its fridges, up from 80 gallons.
However, all is not perfect with the new jug. It has left many consumers
bewildered and frustrated. As the jug does not pour quite the same as the
old-fashioned jugs many report bad spills. "I hate it," said café
owner Lisa DeHoff.
Another disgruntled customer was Amy Wise, a homemaker. She stated,
"It spills everywhere."
A grandmother shopping for her grandchildren, Lee Morris stated, "It’s
very hard for kids to pour."
However, despite the numerous complaints it appears that customers across the
country will only be seeing more of the jugs. With soaring food costs,
it's hard to justify not adopting the jugs from an economic standpoint.
And companies can always market
the jugs as "greener" thanks to their resulting energy, fuel,
water, and plastic savings from farm to shelf.
The new milk jug is just one example of how the changing world economy, fossil
fuel depletion, and environmental concerns may profoundly affect little parts
of our life in surprising ways. For the most part, these changes make
sense, but there are sure to always be some who will cry over a little spilt