The Milk Carton in the Supply Chain – A Concept

Other than in emerging markets where dairy producers can count on population growth, rising incomes and the novelty of liquid dairy products as a new addition to people’s diets, liquid milk and other liquid dairy products (LDP) in developed economies, which represent 32% of global LDP consumption, are faced with already high levels of consumption, many other beverage options and a highly competitive market where established brands compete with in-store labels for consumer attention *).

Of the total LDP (ambient and chilled) production in developed countries milk reigns with a 76% market share, of which ambient milk, with consumption volumes of 46.1 billion litres, holds a 69% share and chilled, with 19.5 billion litres, a 29.2% share.
Although milk consumption remains steady across developed countries, these markets face an additional challenge as there is no room for growth. In many of these countries, per capita annual LDP consumption rates are already very high – ranging from 160 litres in Ireland to 103 litres in Norway. To drive new growth, dairy producers have to be innovative product-wise as well as packaging-wise.

Furthermore consumers continue to be interested in the environmental aspects of packaging, the ability to recycle and to reduce the overall quantity of packaging material, according to a Tetra Pak-commissioned study by GlobeScan, a market research firm specialising in sustainability. As a matter of fact, GlobeScan found, that decision makers and influencers expect environmental factors to play a key role in influencing the future use of packaging.

Many consumers in developed countries are also turning to discount retailers. For example, discounters in Germany were an essential factor in the country’s development as an ambient market in the 1970s and 80s when price-conscious consumers flocked to new discount stores. Today, discounters represent 44.9% of Germany’s total drinking milk products sales – more than double that of any other advanced countries – and ambient dairy products enjoy a 64.7% market share.

With the developed markets full and saturated, milk (and most of its derivatives) have become an ordinary commodity. The dairy industry has to look for innovations in products and packaging to maintain their market position while supermarkets and discount retailers are using milk for price dumping to attract customers.

All these aspects might force the milk market from a dull, traditional market to an innovative and creative market where dairy producers have to come up with new packages to attract the consumer.In Europe milk is typically packed in 1 litre (or less) containers, such as (plastic) bottles, Tetra Paks and SigBlocs, which have all just the size to handle with one hand by the consumer and a traditional and unattractive shape. It’s not surprising that in this world of little creativity (there are exceptions, read my articles). many a designer comes with an alternative container. Practicable or not, unfortunately most don’t reach the shelves.

There is one more amazing aspect in the milk market. Milk, although a commodity, never is promoted in a 6-pack, cluster, let alone that there is a multi-bottle carrier at offer. Strange enough multi-packs are only seen in beer and wine, but never in milk. Strange again, as milk containers are one of the most bought items in a supermarket, but don’t feature a handle, are voluminous, heavy and even difficult to transport, while the supermarket doesn’t supply any (plastic) bags any more to carry the purchased merchandise.

In previous articles I wrote about some alternatives for milk packaging and promised to add one more to the range. Here it comes. The amazing part of this design is that the German designer Andy Mandel didn’t stop with redesigning the milk pack but enhanced, out of frustration with the existing situation when buying milk in the supermarket and bringing the packs home, his design project by creating a beautiful solution for carrying the milk containers. In other words he didn’t just create an attractive packaging for the milk, but he also created the first multi-pack or bottle-carrier for milk.

Regrettably it’s only just a concept. But I think it’s worthwhile for Tetra Pak or any other to have a close look at this design. In my opinion one of the best I have seen up till now.

In his concept the outer shell is made from paperboard folded around a, from thin PE-film, blow moulded plastic bottle. The shape of the bottles leaves some room to store them in a paperboard box with a carrier handle in the middle.
The construction of the boxes allow them to be stacked on a pallet.

The design has an extra feature as the plastic ‘bow’ which forms the back of the bottle holds a measuring scale allowing the consumer to see how much of the content is left.

About the possibilities of folding paper-based material around a thin-walled plastic blow-moulded bottle, let’s have a look next time at the technology recently developed by Chesapeake.

*) Note: This article uses some extracts from the report: “Tetra Pak Dairy index Dec 2009”.

Read also my other article re. milk packaging:
Milk in Paper Bottles
Milk in Paper Bottles (Part 2)
Milk in a Pouch – Innovative and Sustainable


3 responses to “The Milk Carton in the Supply Chain – A Concept

  1. I’m sorry, but your statement that milk is always sold in individual bottles is only valid in some regions of the world that you fail to mention. For instance, in most places of Europe, milk is promoted in 6 (or even 12) packs.

    Please remember that you are in a global forum known as internet, and, as such, it is good manners not assuming that your country is the only thing your readers will know about.

    In any case, your article is fairly good… even if only applicable to some countries and not all the world as you seem to believe.

    • I have the impression you haven’t read the article properly or didn’t understand it. I’m talking about the developed countries in Europe and yes, there all milk (1,8% is tap) is sold in individual bottles. There are of course 6 and 12 packs in the supply chain for the retailer. But in supermarkets they are individually stocked. Only in, what are called cash-and-carry outlets and retail stores you can pick up a (shrink wrapped) (6-12) pack.

      And with this we come to the point you obviously missed. The point is, that beer and wine you can find in a bottle carrier throughout the supermarkets, but not milk, while they are difficult to carry. That’s the point the designer Andy Mendel is correctly making.

      Your statement about the global forum and the country where I live is laughable. Try to be a bit more open to other ideas and a bit more imaginative. It really helps a lot to understand the quintessence of an article.

      Furthermore you seem to be very restrictive in your thinking process. The concept is applicable to all countries in the world, no exception, whether you use glass or plastic bottles, tetra’s or sigblock or whatever. It just needs an open brain, an open vision to implement and differentiate from the competition.

      • Regarding: There are of course 6 and 12 packs in the supply chain for the retailer. But in supermarkets they are individually stocked.

        Answer: Spanish supermarkets have 6 & 12 packs in their shelves.

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