Milk Bags – A Truly (Eastern) Canadian Idea Lands in the UK

Well, I have been meaning to write about this one for awhile…

A couple of weeks back I was intrigued by the intro to CBC Radio One’s late morning show “Q”, where host Jian Ghomeshi talked for more than two minutes about the little bit of Canadiana that many of us have in our fridges – milk in bags.

Ode to Canadian Milk Bags on CBCs Q

Now, back in Nova Scotia, I grew up with cartons of milk in our fridge but my grandmother swore by milk in bags. Growing up in a province where three dairies (Farmers, Scotsburn and Baxter) all had full assortments at both Sobeys and Superstore, as well as in many c-stores; the brand and format of your milk was not a rare topic of conversation.

In doing a bit more research I found that milk in bags is a hot topic, at least among a select few. Google “milk bags Canada” and you will find 2.1 million hits including a very informative article from the Toronto Star (includes a demo video).

Bags of milk are not available in all areas of Canada. They are very popular in Ontario where up to 80% of milk is bought in bags, while they rarely ever make it across the Ontario / Manitoba border.

Bags have been used in Canada since the late 1960’s and have three widely touted benefits:

  1. They use less plastic than jugs
  2. They keep milk fresher as 4L is stored in three bags
  3. They offer a price advantage vs. other formats

There is some debate as to whether the milk bag is better for the environment than paper cartons or plastic jugs. One of the main barriers is the capability of municipalities to sort and recycle this waste. Heck, we just started having curbside recycling here in Calgary just last year, while Edmonton has offered this service since 1988.

However, it looks like the milk bag is starting to take hold across the Atlantic in the UK where according to an article in the Guardian, Sainsbury’s is rolling out its milk in bags in a bid to save the environment.

Interestingly, Sainsbury has added some great features including printing on each individual bag and a better serving device that completely encloses the bag and looks like a pitcher with a lid on it.

The pitchers from the UK (right) look much fancier than the ones I have been lugging from city to city (left) since I left Quebec in 2006.

Will milk bags ever make it out to Calgary? I can only hope so…


One Reply to “Milk Bags – A Truly (Eastern) Canadian Idea Lands in the UK”

  1. These have been used widely in India (in a basic form). Well being a developing country, the use of a high cost medium like cartons and milk jugs is not very popular. The interesting thing that caught my attention was the use of the JUGIT jugs. There is an interesting cultural difference that I wnated to point out here. Indians will rarely consume the milk unless they have boiled it at home after opening the packet. Thus, innovations like JUGIT would be limited to pouring the contents into a saucepan.

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