bottles versus cartons : the case for bottles

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  • 186 Journal of the Society of Dairy Technology, Vol. 14, No. 4, 1961

    (Third Paper)

    B O T T L E S V E R S U S C A R T O N S The Case for Bottles

    B Y V. LENNARD, B. E. MOODY, L. MOXON A N D C. WEEDEN on behalf of the Glass Manufacturers Federation.

    Milk Distribution in the U.K. Let us start by getting the pattern of milk distribu- tion in the United Kingdom in perspective.

    The United Kingdom consumption of liquid milk in 1960 is estimated at 1,558 million gallons and the pattern of its distribution can best be seen from the followine figures:

    I I

    Door-Step Deliveries. . Cateiing, hospitals etc. Schools . . . . Retall Sales . . . . From Farm * . Vending Machines . . Otheis . . . . . .


    .. .. . . .. ..

    Million Gallons . . 1,233.1 . . 194.8 . . 57.5 .. 37.4 . . 13.2 .. 8 *O .. 14.0


    The importance of door-step deliveries is better

    % of Total shown below:

    Door-Step Deliveries. . . . . . . . 79.1 Catering, hospitals etc. . . . . . . 12.5 Schools . . . . . . . . . . 3 -7 Retail Sales . . . . . . . . . . 2.4 From Farm . . . . . . . . 0.9 Vending Machines . . . . . . . . 0.5 Others . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.9

    100.0 -

    We have more to say on this later. At this stage we suggest that the present level of milk consump- tion can only be maintained, let alone increased, if this personal contact between the dairy and the household is maintained. Whilst undoubtedly milk consumption can be increased by sales through new outlets such as vending machines and milk bars, the most effective means of increasing sales is to persuade housewives to buy more milk when their roundsman calls.

    M& Consumption in Relation to Pack There undoubtedly is room for improvement, as can be sten below:

    Liquid Milk Consumption per capita (gaI./head/year) 1938 1957 1958 1959

    U.K. . . . . . . . . 21.1 30.9 31.1 31.3

    It is interesting, for a moment, to consider the relationship between the consumption of milk in these countries, the method of distribution and the type of container at present in use.

    I t seems probable that, in the first place, there is a fairly strong correlation between the per capita consumption of milk and the extent to which a comprehensive door-step delivery system exists.

    While due allowance must be made for certain other factors such as price trends, standards of living etc., statistics do seem to indicate that in those countries with a comprehensive delivery system, milk consumption per capita has risen proportionately most rapidly over the past twenty years or so, and least rapidly, or even fallen, where a poor or modified system exists.

    Thus, to take two examples, the consumption of milk in the U.S., where some 50 per cent of total liquid milk is sold in shops, amounted during 1959 approximately to 28.8 gal. per capita. This repre- sents an increase of only 13 per cent on pre-war figures and an actual fall of very nearly 10 per cent since 1945 and some 2 per cent since 1957. In contrast, in the U.K. where almost 80 per cent of milk is delivered to the door-step, per capita consumption during 1959 at 31-1 gal. not only exceeded the U.S. figure but was some 47 per cent higher than in 1938 and, unlike the U.S., showed in addition an increase on the 1957 figure. Likewise, in Sweden, with a poor delivery system, per capita consumption although still high has fallen steadily since pre-war days. In New Zealand, however, where the delivery system is good, consumption of milk together with cream has risen rapidly since 1938 and for the last few years has stood at the very high figure around 47.0 gal. per capita. Naturally, as we mentioned earlier, other factors have played their part in influencing the trend in milk consumption, but nevertheless it seems probable that it is more than pure coincidence that good delivery systems have gone hand in hand with favourable consumption trends.

    U.S.A. . . . . . . 2 5 3 29.5 28.9 28.8 . This argument scarcely requires a proof, but if proof is needed let us look closer a t the position in

    .. 42*7 38*9 379 37*9 the United States where to a certain extent dairies Sweden *New Zealand .. . , 4.6 47.0 47.0 47.0 have abdicated their position as direct supplier to

    . . . .

    (+inc. cream) the housewife.

  • Journal o f t h e Society of Dairy Technology, Vol. 14, No. 4, 1961 187

    Consumption of liquid milk (fresh, whole milk) per head of

    total civil population (Ib.) 1935 26 I 2.07 I940 265 2.46 1945 335 3.61 1950 293 3.70 1955 305 2,79 I956 308 2.61 1957 304 2.12 1958 300 I .92 1959 299 (estj 1.99

    We have not been able to correlate the actual change from door-step to retail sales, but if we take the sale of milk bottles as an indication of the change in policy we find that when the sale of milk bottles fell away, then so did the sale of milk. In a study, undertaken in 1953 by the University of Wisconsin, it was estimated that a loss of about 10 percent in home delivery trade should be expected as a result of switching from glass containers to cartons. Store trade usually remained unaffected by the changeover and the general effect, therefore, was to increase the emphasis on store distribution and thus, to reduce the overall degree of control which the dairymen had over the selling price and the method of sale.

    We have, we feel, said sufficient to establish the importance of door-step deliveries to the dairy trade, and it is implicit that in order to increase these, market costs of distribution must be kept as low as possible.

    Before finally leaving this argument, however, let us consider for a moment the habits of house- wives. The housewife decides on an order large enough to cover her likely needs, for example, 2 pt. each day and 3 pt. on Sunday. If she finds that milk is piling up her reaction is to make a milk pudding or something similar, rather than cut her order. On the other hand, were it customary for her to buy milk from a shop, then her natural reaction would be to reduce her purchases.

    Distribution Costs Our next point is, therefore, that the glass bottle is the most economiccontainer for door-step deliveries. Glass containers have many advantages which we shall mention in detail, but the principal advantage of the milk bottle is that it is a robust, durable container which can be used over and over again. If you imagine that glass is a fragile material just bear in mind that a milk bottle can withstand a crushing force of about five tons.

    Although we cannot tell you what your distribu- tion costs are, we are repeatedly told by dairymen that there is no container for milk that can meet the very low cost per journey of a glass bottle. We are told by many dairymen that bottle trippage averages well over 50 journeys. Bottles, we are informed, have been known to do over 200 journeys. If the average initial cost of the standard unenamelled pint bottle is taken as 4fd. then

    Supply of bottles

    (mill. gross)

    the cost of a bottle each trip is less than one-tenth of a penny. Taking into account also washing and filling, the cost of a bottle is between .30d. and .38d. per journey. You, of course, can judge best the accuracy of this statement. An authoritative letter to the Financial Times on February 22nd said Because the average bottle makes 54 journeys compared to the one of the non-returnable con- tainer, the bottle is approximately five times cheaper as a package for milk, and that is taking into account bottle collection, washing and labour costs. Modern washing and filling machinery give. a production rate with bottles which has not yet been matched by the carton filler, and the bottle is left in as sterile condition as the carton. If milk sales are to be increased, and that surely is the aim, then milk must be distributed in glass bottles since no housewife will welcome an increase in her housekeeping budget that results from a rise in costs of distribution.

    But there are other important reasons why glass bottles are the most efficient containers for distributing milk. Fairly recently the Glass Manu- facturers Federation commissioned an independent enquiry into the attitudes of housewives towards the packaging of milk. The results were interesting and confirmed the results of an earlier survey carried out on behalf of the National Milk Publicity Council which indicated that there was an over- whelming preference for the glass milk bottle. In the National Milk Publicity Council survey you will remember, three out of four housewives said that they preferred their milk in bottles.

    Consumer Preference In the Federation survey for all foods, in which category we classify milk, 63 per cent of housewives preferred glass containers. The enquiry took into account their attitudes towards all other forms of containers, that is tin, plastics and paper. The housewives preference for a glass bottle was given in this order: 1. They consider it the most hygienic container. 2. It does not taint the contents. 3. It allows the contents to be seen and therefore

    creates confidence. In the case of milk bottles, the final point is most important to a dairyman since the transparent bottle clearly shows the cream line.

    The dairymen interviewed also showed them- selves to be strongly in favour of the milk bottle, confirming what has already been stated, namely that in view of the large number of journeys the bottle can undertake, it is by far the most economical container on the market. This, it was felt, was the vital factor. Like housewives, dairymen felt that the inert nature of glass made it physically the most suitable container because it imparted no taste to the milk; they also felt that it was the easiest container to fill and seal.

  • 188 Journal of the Soci