business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note yesterday of a New York Times story about a new milk jug design being adopted by Wal-Mart and Costco, one that reportedly is cheaper to ship, better for the environment, keeps milk fresher and costs less. Which would appear to be a win-win-win-win proposition, except that customers don't like it because it apparently is hard to pour from.

Got a lot of emails on this one…

One MNB user wrote:

I have tried Costco’s new milk jug. It is awkward, but is still something I can and will get used to – especially since the price is almost a dollar cheaper than my local Cub. The opening is about four times the size of today’s milk jugs, which is my biggest ‘cow’ with it.

MNB user Tami Regan wrote:

You're absolutely right about educating customers on why a change in happening. I buy about 5 to 6 gallons of milk a week at Costco and I hate the new milk jugs. I figured they changed it because they were easier to transport, however, now that I know it is more environmentally friendly and will keep my milk fresher longer, I will try to have a better attitude next time a pour a glass of milk and it spills down the side of the jug and on the counter.

MNB user Ben Gochnauer wrote:

I too noticed this change this weekend and at first was surprised. I was even more surprised when my wife said she pays roughly $2.75(maybe a little more) at Costco and nearly $5.00 at the local grocery store. Because the new design means you don't have to tip the jug near as far as a traditional jug, I enjoyed some coffee with my milk the first time I poured some in my coffee cup but that's just an adjustment I have to make. If it means saving that kind of money, I'll adjust.

Now, how do we apply that gasoline prices?

Maybe by putting Wal-Mart and Costco in charge of US economic policy…?

MNB user Sam McDaniel wrote:

While I haven't actually used one of the new jugs - I have seen them in a Sam's Club in Bentonville, AR. The number one advantage I see is that they can be stacked on a pallet without having to use milk crates. So, they'll be easier to load in the truck and load into the cooler. No more placing them on the shelf one gallon at a time. The can simply roll them up to the door with a pallet jack. While I don't know much about the cost or environmental impact, there will be a labor savings.

By the way, they do look like they would be difficult to use. But, I'm confident I could figure it out. If not, I'm not going to cry over it, its just spilled milk.

But seriously, folks…

Not everybody is so sanguine about the change.

One MNB user wrote:

I am a 55-year-old consumer who has been in the Food industry most of my life. My wife and I have raised 6 children and are now active in the growing group of grandchildren related to us…We purchased our milk from Costco for most of the last 6 years…until they changed their container 8-10 months ago. My wife, myself and my adult children cannot pour a glass of milk without spilling when the pitcher is anywhere near full.

My comment to the management of my local warehouse fell on people who are unable to make changes. Now, after many years of shopping, almost exclusively at Costco, we now shop at Aldi in our community because of the milk containers.

Another MNB user wrote:

Tried Costco's new milk jug -- and I don't care if the milk elsewhere is 30 cents a gallon more -- I'm not buying that blasted thing again, and will continue to buy my milk at Publix because they have a functional jug.

I TOTALLY GET the whole thing about transportation and packing and freight – THAT isn't my problem. My final project for my master's degree -- way back in 2004, when we were still paying $2 a gallon -- was on the economic impact of rising petroleum prices on the global economy. I get it. I really, really do.

My problem with the new jug is that it's a complete and utter pain in the .... It's all but impossible to get the milk from the container into a cereal bowl, coffee cup, or glass without having to come back and mop up the puddle of milk that you slopped all over the place. (I've been in the kitchen, by the way, for far too many decades to not have figured out how to pour a glass of milk without spilling it -- this is what is termed a fatal design flaw -- a design so utterly hosed that there's no way to make it work in an acceptable fashion.)

Thirty cents a gallon for a jug that actually functions is cheap compared to all the milk I wiped up and threw away.

Wanna really impress me? Bring on the milk bags and re-usable jug that's used in Canada, and was adopted chain-wide by Kwik-Trip in the Midwest years ago....Very little waste, very little packaging, and you can manage to get milk into your coffee without slopping it all over the kitchen.

Which was an opinion echoed by a Canadian MNB user:

Do what we do in Canada; Sell milk by the 4-liter size. Inside the plastic bag are 3 smaller plastic bags. Customers purchase a solid plastic container (non disposable) and place the refillable plastic sleeves into this plastic container. Being from the US at first it was an issue, but after getting used to : you have fresher milk longer and also good for the environment.

MNB reported yesterday that the newest edition of Food, Nutrition & Science from The Lempert Report says that “young adults are engaging in risky behaviors like eating raw or undercooked foods of animal origin…”

Which led MNB user Michael Freese to write:

Wow....I have been eating homemade cookie dough for over 50 years and I'm not dead!

Hard to believe!

And BBQ hamburger will give you cancer. And butter is soooooo much worse for you than margarine. And eating more than one egg a week will just clog your arteries. (Again.....eating 10 eggs a week, fried in butter, for over 50 years and I'm not dead.)

But.....there is one thing Kevin and I can agree with.....Red wine makes you live longer.

And MNB user Lou Scudere wrote:

While I am a firm believer in food safety and I am a firm supporter of all the efforts that the industry has undertaken supporting same, as with any initiative undertaken with good intentions, the spin can always be taken over the edge. In my opinion this has occurred with the ADA report in FNS.

It drives me up the wall when someone, in an attempt to generate attention, makes a statement that identifies certain truly risky behaviors (eating raw homemade cookie dough or raw hamburger) with behaviors that are for the most part innocuous, albeit not risk free (i.e. How many people eat their eggs either poached, soft boiled; fried over easy or sunny side up? How many people have placed raw sprouts on their salad at the salad bar, or, for that matter, how many retailers offer raw sprouts in their produce departments and what about raw produce in general? How many people have eaten cerviche, sushi, or oysters at a raw bar?)

Our generation, the boomers, (whom frankly I do not as a group hold in much regard because it is our generation who generates most of this pap) needs to understand WE DO NOT LIVE IN A RISK FREE ENVIRONMENT! While efforts to educate on issue of food safety and the risks in not practicing same need to continue in earnest, let’s try and use some common sense and not have everything sound as if it is a national emergency!

However, if society wants to, we can ban red meat, eat our eggs only hard cooked or hard boiled, not sure what we do about produce, after all there is that salmonella or e coli threat potentially ever present (I don’t think I would care for my tossed salad to be made with cooked lettuce and stewed tomatoes) stop drinking coffee (or drink more depending on the study) and Kevin, God forbid if they ever find something wrong with our drinking red wine!

I would just like everyone to remember that good intentions should be tempered with a large dose of common sense and I’ll end my rant there.

Good rant.

And they’ll take our red wine when they pry the glass from our cold dead fingers.

KC's View: