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Milk-bags and Jugits – the future of milk retailing?

Posted Sep 12 2010 12:05pm

I’m not entirely convinced that they are. Not yet, anyway.

I get through rather a lot of milk. Currently it’s about 6 pints a week, but it has been as high as 12-16 pints (my drugs irritate my stomach, milk sooths it). This means I have plastic milk jugs to dispose of – not really a big deal.

However, I’ve been looking at the Jugit + milk bag system (you put the floppy milk bag in the Jugit), and there are a couple of points that bother me.

The first one is storage. The storage space in my fridge door is huge. Milk and juice, and glass standard bottles (booze** or whatever), live at the bottom; smaller bottles,  and jars, plus some boxes and tubs of drugs, on 7 other, smaller, shelves. It works very well.

**No, Osborne , you dismal waste of blood, skin and organs, I don’t drink at home! It’s what we call an example.

However, milk bags come in just one size – 2 pint – whereas I normally buy one 6-pint poly-jug which, as I say, I store in the door, as is usual. The one thing a plastic bag full of liquid won’t do, of course, is stand up. So where does it go?

Well, obviously, it’s going to take up shelf space and, while I recently  bought a big fridge-freezer so that I’d have plenty of shelf space, it’s pretty much spoken for on occasion (and I don’t want to find, when I need to stash fermenting bread dough, that the space is occupied by milk bags), but that’s where the milk will have to go. Or, since I’m not buying meat, maybe it could go in the meat drawer?

That’s not vast, and space is already occupied by cheese, butter, Clover, and more drugs. So, while finding space for spare milk bags doable for me (my chilly monster is classed as an “American”  model), what do people with normal, British standard-sized fridges do?

Then there’s the dispense method – a hollow spike-cum-spout is driven into the bag, piercing it at 90 degrees to, and right through, the top seam, where it would be impossible to get a tight seal. Call me picky, but that’s mechanically unsound, and I can’t see any way that this will not leak to some degree – no matter how slightly, which would create a potential hygiene problem. That’s a question which the Jugit website FAQs stay well away from, though I find it very hard to believe that nobody has asked it. Mind you, awkward sods like me can’t ask questions – you can only tell them how wonderful they are.

Of course, when you change a bag, the spike/spout has to be washed – jug too, if it’s leaked – and really, human nature being what it is, some people, maybe a lot, are going to say Oh, sod it! and simply change the bag and re-use the spike/spout especially if they have the hassle of getting kids off to school in the morning – a recipe for sour milk, if not food poisoning, especially if several members of the family repeat the process, not knowing it’s already be re-used once – or five times, or whatever.

And let’s not forget, while poking a hole in the bag, that this is an object that might be far from sterile. It’s likely to have been handled by curious people with unknown levels of hygiene, coughed and sneezed on, and heaven knows what else – then you take it home and poke whatever crap and bacteria are on the bag into the milk. Oh, joy!

Yes, I know you could sterilise, or wash the bag – but how many people with even think there might be a problem with contamination?

There’s a wildly uncritical article in the Guardian about this system, which reads more like a plug for Sainsbury’s, and one of the comments confirms my suspicions – they do, indeed, leak.

Honestly, I don’t see how they cannot. There is nothing securing the bag to the spike except friction, which will vanish as soon as it gets wet with milk. It’s also, apparently, very hard to actually buy milk bags – supply seems poor.

[Note: I wrote this post yesterday, Saturday. Today I went to Sainsbury’s, and the milk bag display was, at best, meagre, though the Jugit is the improved model – see next para. If they want greater acceptance, they need to increase stock levels, and accept there may be some wastage until it takes off – if it does.]

Sainsbury’s briefly gave away the Jugit free, to encourage sales – now they’re charging £1.98. The website displays an older model (as it does with quite a lot of things) – though it’s recently been improved. Why is that? We’re – see below – told this system has been in use for over 30 years. Surely it should have been perfected long ago? Why would it need to be tweaked now – what was wrong with it?

And there is a question hanging over durability, as one of the Jugit FAQs is about buying replacement spike/spouts. I’m really not disposed to pay for a system for which I might have to buy spare parts, when I’m using one that already works well – the poly-jug. Mind you there’s no recycling information either on the poly-jug or on Sainsbury’s website – no comparative recycling data at Jugit either, other than the suggestion that the poly-jugs go to landfill.

I would be happy to switch from the poly-jug, as it’s unwieldy, but not to something like this, whether Canadians and others love it or not. This system has – allegedly – been used in Canada for over 30 years. Then why is the design so iffy?

And Canada, like America, is the land of the giant fridge.

The bag really needs a light cardboard sleeve – doesn’t have to be very robust and it will recycle – so that the bag can be stood in the fridge door, where it belongs. Or, here’s a thought, maybe it’s feasible to cut down the smaller poly-jugs to make holders; in fact, one cut-down 6-pinter should hold 2 milk bags, plus 1 in the Jugit, there’s my 6 pints – problem solved!

The vast majority of people in this country have fridges/fridge-freezers designed to fit a 60cm-wide space – not everyone can afford or has room  for the American-style giants, and thus would be hard pressed to accommodate milk bags, especially while fitting in food for a family.

Fix the storage and leak problem, and I think this will be a viable proposition. Not yet, though, despite its enthusiastic reception by Canadians. Or was it enthusiastic – were they presented with a fait accompli? Any Canadians like to comment?

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