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Same eco-friendly milk package, different results

U.K. chain Sainsbury’s reports great success with milk in bags, while rival Waitrose discontinues same due to poor sales.

webmilk.jpgThe flexible milk bag is used in conjunction with a rigid plastic jug, which is reused with each new pouch. In an article from Packaging News, Sainsbury reports selling 110,000 bags of semi-skim milk each week, and is now considering broadening the package into other dairy offerings.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Waitrose has dropped the package, once hailed as a revolutionary eco-friendly dairy package, due to sagging sales and customer complaints about leaks and spills. Low sales meant a lot of product was being wasted each week.

The bags contain 75% less plastic, require less energy to produce, and take up far less space when disposed of.

It’s hard for me to imagine why a product would be so successful at one chain and not so at another. A little research reveals Waitrose offers a little higher quality of merchandise, charges more, and boasts a Royal Warrant to service the Queen, while Sainsbury’s might appeal more to the common man.

So wealthier folks are less likely to deal with the hassle of a reusable system? Or care less about the environment? Hard to make that leap.

Sainsbury does say they were careful to train in-store personnel on how to use the jug/bag system, and they became the biggest advocates. Might be a case of better training and managing expectations.

It is important to note that when Waitrose introduced the system two or three years ago, initial sales were quite good. Perhaps it’s a case of the bloom is off the rose, and Sainsbury is still in the honeymoon phase?

This will be interesting to watch. Something for every packaging designer to file away. Now you’ve got the additional stress of your innovative design being applauded and reviled at the same time!

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