The redesign of the gallon milk jug, experts say, 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 must be redesigned for greater efficiency.
“When we brought in the new milk, we were asking for feedback,” said Heather Mayo, vice president for merchandising at Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart. “And they’re saying, ‘Why’s it in a square jug? Why’s it different? I want the same milk. What happened to my old milk?’ ”
Mary Tilton tried to educate the public a few days ago as she stood at a Sam’s Club in North Canton, about 50 miles south of Cleveland, luring shoppers with chocolate chip cookies and milk as she showed them how to pour from the new jugs.
“Just tilt it slowly and pour slowly,” Ms. Tilton said to passing customers as she talked about the jugs’ environmental benefits and cost savings. Instead of picking up the jug, as most people tend to do, she kept it on a table and gently tipped it toward a cup.
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.”
But with the new jugs, the milk crates are gone. Instead, a machine stacks the jugs, with cardboard sheets between layers. Then the entire pallet, four layers high, is shrink-wrapped and moved with a forklift.
The company estimates this kind of shipping has cut labor by half and water use by 60 to 70 percent. More gallons fit on a truck and in Sam’s Club coolers, and no empty crates need to be picked up, reducing trips to each Sam’s Club store to two a week, from five — a big fuel savings. Also, Sam’s Club can now store 224 gallons of milk in its coolers, in the same space that used to hold 80.