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The Untold Truth Of Milk Bags In Canada

The average American drank approximately 17 gallons of milk last year, and it probably came in a plastic jug or a paper carton. But cross the border into Canada and the scenario changes. A few consumers prefer milk sold in floppy, plastic pouches milk bags in Canada in the country's eastern half.

Milk bag in a black plastic jug
Milk bag in a black plastic jug

What Is A Milk Bag?

A milk bag is a milk-filled plastic bag. One of the corners of the milk bag is frequently cut off to ease pouring. A standard milk bag contains around 1 L (1.8 imp pt) of milk in South America, Iran, Israel, and continental Europe, 2 imperial pints (1.1 L) in the UK, 1+13 liters (2.3 imp pt) in Canada, and 0.5 L in India (0.9 imp pt).

For those who didn't grow up with bagged milk, the milk bladder is a way of life. Most Ontario people buy their milk in a pouch, but we aren't the only ones. South Africans and some Indians consume milk in bags because it is more cost-effective and environmentally beneficial. In which countries do milk pouches exist? How do those pouches work? Now you know everything you need to know about milk in bags in Canada.

Why Do Canadians Bag Milk?

When refrigeration became common in the early twentieth century, milkmen carried glass bottles of fresh milk to consumers' doorsteps. However, they were heavy, breakable, and difficult to clean. Lightweight milk cartons first appeared around 1915 and became increasingly prevalent after the mid-1960s arrival of Tetra Pak from Sweden. In the mid-'60s, lightweight plastic milk containers appeared, promising longer shelf life. But plastic invention didn't end there.

In 1967, DuPont brought the pillow pouch, a thin polyethylene milk bag, to the Canadian market as an alternative to glass bottles. The company tested pouches in Montreal and Vancouver with Guaranteed Pure Milk Co. In the 1970s, Canada's drive to adopt the metric system led packaging industries to convert container sizes from pounds to liters.

Plastique milk bladders adapted better to the new metric standards, giving them an edge in some Canadian markets.

How To Sip Milk From A Bag?

Depending on the country, loose milk is marketed in half-liter to 1.33-liter pouches. Canada's milk comes in a larger packaging with three bladders totaling four liters. Because the bags aren't stiff like a bottle, some admirers say they're easier to store.

The downside is that they're bulky and can't be refilled once opened. Generally, users buy a reusable pitcher and insert the unopened bag inside, with a corner towards the pour spout. The manner of opening the bag varies by country, jug type, and milk brand. The opening must be large enough to pour and prevent spills. The most frequent method is to cut a triangle from the bag's corner with scissors, a knife, or even teeth.

Some pitchers, like the Jugit and Kankomat, have a built-in knife that can precisely cut open milk bags. Many households buy a Snippet, a plastic and stainless steel blade tool that clamps onto the milk jug's side. Since its inception in 1978, the Snippet has been used to open milk pouches, frozen food packages, chips, and even mail. Closing the sack also takes skill, which is why some people avoid buying bagged milk. People employ imaginative ways to seal their milk bags because the product doesn't come with a lid.

Blue packaging of a milk bag
Blue packaging of a milk bag

Does Packaged Milk Spoil Faster?

The fact that the bag is mostly open and exposed to air in the fridge causes some to assume that the milk may taste strange or degrade faster. However, proponents of open milk bags suggest that families consume milk more quickly. They also claim that dividing the three liters of milk into smaller packages reduces waste.

Is A Milk Pouch More Eco-Friendly?

It's possible. Bags utilize 75% less plastic than a plastic milk jug and are lighter, needing less energy to ship (the same argument taken with a beer in cans versus bottles and paper versus plastic bags). As a result, the bags are cheaper than bottled alternatives. Bagged milk takes up less space in the waste because the packaging is thin and flexible. As a result, UK supermarkets like Waitrose and Sainsbury's have experimented with bagged milk over the previous two decades.

But pouched milk campaigns never last. Milk bags generate more plastic garbage than plastic milk containers, to the point where plastic milk bags contribute to India's high rate of plastic pollution. An environmental NGO named Chintan revealed that branded milk bags from Mother Dairy and Amul accounted for 57% of all single-layer plastic rubbish studied in Delhi in 2018. As a result, the government has increased pressure on milk producers to recycle plastic waste.

Of course, the rising interest in recycling comes as countries like the US struggle to cope with all of its recyclables now that China has outlawed international waste imports. That hurts plastic jugs, too.

Where Can I Buy Milk In A Bag In America?

Kwik Trip is a Midwest convenience store business notable for its half-gallon milk pouches marketed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa under the name Kwik Star. While some may think it's a novelty, Kwik Trip's production manager, Kyle Schild, says there's a dedicated constituency of bagged milk consumers who have been buying it that way for over 30 years.

'Mini-Sip Pouch' By DuPont

Some millennials may recall receiving water balloon-shaped squares with juice or milk in their school lunches. The DuPont “mini-sip pouch” was popular in the 1990s. By 1993, schools in 24 states were adopting the mini-sip pouch milk, up from 30,000 per day in 1989. The films taught the kids how to correctly pierce the micro sip pouches with a straw and pour the milk into their breakfast cereals. But the mini-sip pouch fad faded.

Darigold's consumer goods manager in Washington, Duane Naluai, says his company still utilizes the mini-sip pouch to supply milk to Spokane Public Schools. Nearly 20 years ago, Spokane-area dairies adopted the packaging technology as a test but did not expand it to other parts of the state.

According to him, Americans choose aseptic Capri-Sun pouches or shelf-stable Tetra Pak cartons from Organic Valley and Horizon. In 2015, a district in Omaha, Nebraska, adopted the pouches. Schools reported that pouches cost about 13 cents less than cartons and reduced lunch waste by roughly 80%. Kids drank more milk because they could see into the bag, say school authorities.

The pouches were sold on college campuses and at local grocery stores like Whole Foods and Hy-Vee.

What Is The US Plastic Pouch's Future?

While mini-sip pouches have lost favor in schools, more and more cafeterias are requesting bulk bag-in-box pouches to lessen their environmental impact.

Each bag-in-box is loaded onto a steel cow. Afterward, students bring their own milk. The format works well in schools with a typical cafeteria rather than classrooms. Steel Cows in Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia Students like the self-service model and being able to customize their milk, Dissinger explained.

"Double thump the container on the counter to settle the bag in the container; I know that noise anywhere."

_ShrimplyPibblesDr (Reddit)

"I remember the first time i tried to refill the jug as a kid. I did not tap the bag down and cut a garage door sized hole as a spout and proceeded to flop the bag out of the jug and dump all of the milk on the floor."

_BoobyBoogarBreath (Reddit)

Does Milk Still Come In Bags In Canada?

Milk bags have been in Canadian refrigerators since the 1970s, mostly in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. Three unresealable plastic milk sachets equaling 4 liters whole.


Some pupils think the milk is colder than in a carton. The bulk of milk bags in Canada approach also decreases food and packaging waste. The 5-gallon bulk milk bag has been a staple in college cafeterias, mess halls, and cruise ships for at least 30 years. As the dairy business evolves to meet the demand for bag-in-box milk, kids may see fewer cartons and more steel cows.

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