Kroger’s Westover Dairy has produced 6.2m lighter weight jugs since September and has introduced the new bottle to its retail locations in the mid-Atlantic region. The new jugs use 10% less recyclable high density polyethylene than the old jugs (going from a 62-gram to a 56-gram bottle), which the company estimated has taken 81,500 lbs out of the waste stream so far.
Westover Dairy site leader, Eric Smarko, told DairyReporter that there are plans to expand the availability of the new gallon jug to Kroger’s other retail regions given the positive consumer and retailer feedback.
New look for the traditional milk jug
The new packaging design was a collaboration between MidAmerican Machining and Kroger packaging engineers based on consumer research. The jug now includes a thumb pad for easier pouring and fill-level marks for measuring.
“Nobody has changed the traditional gallon packaging in forever,” Smarko said. “Now it looks like it has been updated and it’s with the times. It’s a little bit sleeker and rounded.”
He added that comments from customers are virtually unanimous in their approval of the jug, which has a rectangular shaped label designed specifically for Kroger products.
Kroger sustainability goals met
Kroger has 38 of its own manufacturing plants and 15 fluid dairies, however the Lynchburg facility had a slight edge over the rest because of its zero waste to landfill status, according to Smarko.
The reduced material in its plastic jugs meets two of Kroger’s 2020 sustainability targets, the first being moving all of its facilities toward “zero waste” by diverting waste from landfills and reducing its packaging, exceeding the EPA’s threshold of 90% diversion from landfills.
The lighter packaging also meets the company’s goal of corporate brand packaging optimization, which includes packaging material reduction and improving overall design.
In order to properly manufacture the new gallon jugs, Westover Dairy had considerable investments to make in its machinery and operations.
“We retooled the molding equipment that makes the bottles, all the handling equipment from the blow molding to the filler,” Smarko said.
“So it’s going to take a couple years to pay itself back.”