A simple change to the design of the gallon milk jug, adopted by Sam's Club and Costco, seems made for the times. The jugs are cheaper to ship and better for the environment, the milk is fresher when it arrives in stores and costs less.
What's not to like? Plenty, as it turns out.
The jugs have no real spout, and their unorthodox shape makes consumers feel like novices at the simple task of pouring a glass of milk.
“I hate it,” said Lisa DeHoff, a cafe owner shopping in a Sam's Club here.
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“It spills everywhere,” said Amy Wise, a homemaker.
But retailers are undeterred by the prospect of upended bowls of Cheerios. The new jugs have many advantages from their point of view, and Sam's Club intends to roll them out broadly, making them even more prevalent.
Experts say the redesign of the milk jug is an example of the changes likely to play out in the American economy over the next two decades. In an era of soaring global demand and higher costs for energy and materials, virtually every aspect of the economy needs to be re-examined, they say, and many products and procedures must be redesigned for greater efficiency.
Pulling that off is vital to lowering the nation's energy usage without hurting the quality of life.
“This is a key strategy as a path forward,” said Anne Johnson, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit group GreenBlue. “Re-examining, ‘What are the materials we are using? How are we using them? And where do they go ultimately?' I think in this changing economic climate, redesign is a key strategy for managing costs.”
Mike Compston, who owns a dairy in Yerington, Nev., described the pouring technique in a telephone interview as a “rock-and-pour instead of a lift-and-tip.”
Sam's Club started rolling out the boxy jugs in November, and they are now in 189 stores. They will appear soon in more Sam's Club stores and perhaps, eventually, in Wal-Marts.
The question now is whether customers will go along.