Milk sold in bags is a regular choice for 60% of consumers in Canada, Poland, South Africa and China and to a certain extent in the UK.
However in 2010 Waitrose ditched its environmentally friendly milk pouch and jug concept, claiming poor demand was leading to high wastage. The supermarket phased out both the Calon Wen branded milk and its own-label milk pouches.
Waitrose’s decision came in stark contrast to Sainsbury’s, which in April of the same year a month before Waitrose’s decision, rolled out its milk bags nationwide following a successful trial in 50 stores. Dairy Crest, the milk supplier, also redeveloped its Jugit milk jugs for the retailer to coincide with the rollout (see photo at the right).
Initially customers lapped-up the milk bags, buying twice as many as Sainsbury originally predicted. At that time shoppers bought 120,000 semi-skimmed milk bags per week – which is one in every ten 2 pint semi-skimmed units sold. Sainsbury’s expected this figure to double following the expansion.
Compared to an equivalent two pint plastic bottle, milk in a bag costs at least six pence less because it uses 75% less packaging and is cheaper to produce, while switching to bags could save up to 1,400,000 kg of packaging every year.
The bags are made from LDPE with a high durability and fit within the reusable jug – Jugit – which contains a spike that pierces the bag, forms a no-leak seal, and delivers milk through the spout.
I have no data whether the Sainsbury milk bag is still popular by shoppers, but I have the impression that the packaging format is seen too inconvenient to handle by the consumer. In other words sales are stagnant. To underline my supposition, I refer to the argument Waitrose used to explain why they ditched the milk bag. “……. consumers needed further education on how to use the format. This experience has taught us that the multiple retail environment may not be the best fit for the Eco Pak, as the concept needs to be explained to the end consumers”.
Although a perfectly green packaging format, it is clear that the Jugit-solution isn’t quite satisfying the consumer.
In South Africa where the milk bag is very popular and the difference in retail price for milk in a bag (USD 0.93/ltr) and milk in a plastic bottle (USD 1.22/ltr) significant, recently Tap-It Liquid Solutions (Pty) Ltd. in Stellenbosch, launched its second version of the Tap-It, a tap which can be plugged into the side of a milk bag.
The recently launched second and modernised version of the Tap-It dispensing tap offers consumers an innovative solution for conveniently and securely tapping liquid from plastic pillow bags and stand-up pouches.
The Tap-It liquid dispensers are reusable plastic taps, which have been specifically designed for use with bagged liquids. With the taps, it becomes more convenient to use bagged liquids and the contents are protected from outside pollutants. Due to the easy-to-use mechanism and self-sealing enclosure of the Tap-it spout, liquid spillage is reduced to a minimum.
Unique spiked design
The unique spiked design of the plastic Tap-It enables it to pierce a sachet of liquid, while immediately sealing it off from external contamination with a spring locking mechanism. The tap at the opposite end of the spike controls the flow of the liquid from the sachet without spillage.
The taps are manufactured from polypropylene, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and can be re-used approximately 30 times.
It appears that the content of the sachet have a longer life span by using Tap-It. Food spoils faster when it comes into contact with air. If we take the example of a milk sachet where one traditionally cuts it open, it remains open in your fridge, constantly in contact with air. When using Tap-It, the content stays sealed off from air, even preventing oxygen from entering the sachet whilst tapping and therefore the content keeps longer. See the video below which illustrates the above.
Can Tap-It pierce through a multilayer sachet?
According to the company Tap-It can pierce through a multilayer bag, provided all layers are plastic. The only exception, the company makes, is where multilayer bags have an aluminium layer. However we tested the Tap-It ourselves and pierced the dispenser into an aluminium pouch. The PE/Nylon layer inside the bag made a perfect seal, it is easy to plug in and easy to use. The aluminium layer will leak out a little bit but doesn’t effect the seal of the tap.
We tested a multilayer (PE, nylon, aluminium) h-pouch from the S-Pouch Company.
The Jugit contra the Tap-It
As the Dairy Crest’s Jugit, mentioned in the beginning of this article, can only be used for the 2-pint milk bag and faces complaints from consumers that it is too much work to use, the reusable Tap-It is set to revolutionize the packaging industry worldwide as it can be used to extract any type of fluid from a plastic sachet, whether consumables such as milk, juice and yoghurt or even chemicals such as soap or detergents. Furthermore the Jugit is sold by Sainsbury for approx. USD 2.50, while the 30 times reusable Tap-It has a retail price of USD 0.25.
To enlarge the convenience of using liquids in bags the Tap-It company also developed a unique stainless steel dishwasher friendly dispenser frame, which with some simple movements fixes and secures the liquid bag, taking the frustration out of using sachets. See the animation at the right hand side (previous version of the Tap-It).
The benefits to using Tap-It dispensers are not limited only to its cost-effectiveness, as the taps also have a significant impact on the environment. Studies by the Plastics Federation of South Africa found that the carbon footprint of a 1litre sachet of milk is 60% lower than that of the equivalent PET bottle, whereas it requires almost 2,5 times more energy to bottle liquids than using sachets.
To finish this article, have a look at this overview (Source: Dairy Crest internal data, weights may vary)
2 pint HDPE bottle weighs 29.47g
2 litre Green-bottle (weight per 2 pints) weighs 70.2g
1 litre Ecolean stand-up pouch (weight per 2 pints) weighs 19.3g
2 pint mono-layer LDPE pillow milk pouch weighs 5.3g
I can add:
2 litre multi-layer h-pouch with spout (weight per 2 pints) weighs 9.4g
The Tap-It can also be used for wine (as an alternative to the bag-in-box) and water. In a separate article I will come back to these two applications.
No doubt that the Tap-It has a bright future.