Milk jug gets makeover

They might not be crying, but milk drinkers say they are spilling more as they get used a new milk jug.

A simple change to the design of the gallon milk jug, adopted by Wal-Mart and Costco, seems to be causing quite a negative buzz among shoppers at Sam's Club on New Circle Road. The jugs are cheaper to ship and better for the environment, the milk is fresher when it arrives in stores, and it costs consumers less.

Why the fuss? Just ask shoppers.

The jugs have no real spout, and their unorthodox shape makes consumers feel like novices at the simple task of pouring a glass of milk.

”I don't like it. It definitely gets a bit messy,“ said Tracey Buhlig.

The jugs received numerous double takes and raised eyebrows from shoppers unfamiliar with the redesign and many longed with nostalgia for the old jug.

General Eddie Pierce and his wife couldn't agree if it was a noticeable change. ”It spills a lot more.“ she said.

”Maybe you just need to be a little more careful,“ he said.

But retailers are undeterred by the prospect of upended bowls of Cheerios. The new jugs have many advantages from their point of view, and Sam's Club intends to roll them out broadly, making them even more prevalent.

Experts say the redesign of the milk jug is an example of the changes likely to play out in the American economy over the next two decades. In an era of soaring global demand and higher costs for energy and materials, virtually every aspect of the economy needs to be re-examined, they say, and many products and procedures must be redesigned for greater efficiency. It's hard to argue that even the designers haven't noted the difficulty in pouring; in block capital letters across the top of each jug reads TILT & POUR SLOWLY, possibly a testament to complaints they have received.

”This is a key strategy as a path forward,“ said Anne Johnson, the director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit group GreenBlue. ”Re-examining, "What are the materials we are using? How are we using them? And where do they go ultimately?' I think in this changing economic climate, redesign is a key strategy for managing costs.“

Sam's Club started rolling out the boxy jugs in November, and they are now in 189 stores around the country. They will appear soon in more Sam's Club stores and perhaps, eventually, in Wal-Marts.

The question now is whether customers will go along, learning all over again how to pour milk.

Some customers have become converts.

”I do like it. It fits a lot better in my fridge,“ said Lexington shopper Rosa Meza. ”If you're careful, it's really not a big deal.“

Others, even those who rue the day their tried-and-true jugs were replaced, praised the lower cost, $2.18 versus $2.58 a gallon. Sam's Club said that is a savings of 10 to 20 cents a gallon compared with old jugs.

Some had less practical complaints.

”Well,“ said Michael Delong, shopping with his family, ”It's harder to drink out of the carton now.“