Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bullied by Big Milk: Why I oppose Kirkland's new jug


How could this happen?

The other day we went to Costco to pick up some essentials. We walked past the milk jugs like four times looking for the milk. This is because milk at Costco no longer looks like milk. Apparently, Kirkland (Costco store brand) has redesigned their milk jugs.

I can only assume that it is supposed to increase efficiency. The new shape has a slightly smaller footprint, but more importantly, a flat top so you can stack them more easily on a pallet.

The good part is that it fits a little more easily in the side of the refrigerator. The bad part is that when it's full, it's a little top heavy. And the lid lacks the funnel shaped neck of the old bottles. The lid is also inexplicably bigger. I can't figure why, but I'm sure some physics-savvy soul could explain the efficiency-increasing reason for a bigger lid. The result of all this (top-heaviness, no neck, big opening) is an unwieldy pour. It reminds me of trying to pour from a paint can without the benefit of the little wire handle.

Top-heavy, big mouth, no neck, flat-top: I will call Kirkland's new jug the Biff. Aside from the aforementioned pouring issues, I have other problems with the Biff. The Biff is a sqaure, meat-headed container. It lacks the ample base, and the friendly side-circles of the old jug. The voluptuous curves and the slender neck of the old jug are more befitting a vessel for milk than the sharp, angular lines of the Biff.

The Biff in all its squarishness evokes the outline of a Borg ship. It is a synecdoche of the sinister sense-deadening uniformity and conformity of corporate America. The cost-benefit analysis behind the Biff reveals reckless disregard for the consumer. Yes, the Biff is easy to stack on pallets, but how many consumers buy enough milk that they need to stack Biffs in their refrigerator? And yes, the Biff fits slightly better in the fridge door, but who honestly has a difficult time fitting milk in his fridge? And it is true that the stackable-ness of the Biff probably reduces the cost of a jug of milk by increasing efficiency in shipping.

But at what cost? The consumer has to endure less manageable pouring, which creates waste. Notwithstanding Kirkland's claims to the contrary, the Biff pours worse. With the old jug, you could pick it up and tip it further to an almost horizontal position so that when the milk poured, it fell more or less perpendicular to the side of the jug. But with the Biff, the milk begins to pour earlier, when the jug is still between vertical and 45 degrees. Combined with a large opening, the milk pours in a wide, cumbersome stream. After you pour a glass or moisten your cereal, there is always that tell-tale trickle. The wasted milk oozes down the side of the Biff and where it later solidifies into nasty crustiness. It may soil a countertop, table, or the inside of a fridge. This fosters bacteria and may lead to food poisoning. It must be cleaned. All these costs are borne by the American working man, not by the fat cats in the milk industry.

I oppose the Biff.

50 comments:

Amanda said...

Hear hear!

(Yeah, Biff Lowman.)

Katherine said...

Not that aesthetic concerns should outweigh practical issues (of which you've composed a thorough review), but that is one hideous milk jug.

The Shark said...

Hey, at least it's not in a bag. Crazy Canadians and their bagged milk. How is that consumer-friendly in ANY way?

JKC said...

Yeah, George Costanza.

I can't decide if I hate the Biff more because of its bad pouring or the fact that it is a hideous square. Practical or aesthetic, either way it sucks.

Bagged milk is weird. I can't imagine it being practical. On the upside, you could throw it at people like a water-balloon. That might be cool. I guess they're trying to make something that won't take up a lot of landfill space, but since plastic is recyclable anyway, it's kind of moot.

JKC said...

Or, instead of Costanza, yeah, Ben Lomond.

Bjorn said...

Looks like a business opportunity. Now you can sell spouts that screw on the jugs. It could be angled in such a way as to simulate the same pour as the old jugs, like an "s" shape, and thinner to give a fancier pour. Just think of the options! A two spigoted model to fill two cereal bowls at once! That reminds me, I need to go to Cereal World in Dinkytown.

The Shark said...

Bjorn, are you suggesting turning the milk jug into a milk KEG?

JKC said...

This opens a whole range of possibilities. Who will create the first milk box hat, for example? Or, for those of more refined taste, the milk decanter?

Amanda said...

Yeah, "Under Ben Bulben."

If only all those people attempting the "gallon challenge" had a milk bong.

JKC said...

Where can I find a couple of old-timey glass milk jugs? That way I could fill them and discard the Biff. And if it weren't for the extra effort and expense, I just might do it, too.

Under Ben Bulben? Yeah, more like under table and dreaming.

The Shark said...

Yeah, Dave Matthews.

You could always buy some distilled water at the grocery store and use that. Make sure to use a funnel, though!

I just realized, though: Maybe our friends at Kirkland Signature are planning ahead. Americans tend to have metaphorical big mouths, which could lead to ACTUAL big mouths as part of the next step in evolution. Then we'll all be grateful for Kirkland Signature's daring new design.

Bjorn said...

I'm pretty sure I've seen glass bottles at co-ops, or maybe Kowalski's.

Amanda said...

Yeah, Chris Matthews.

JKC said...

Yeah, Kriss Kross.

The Shark said...

Yeah, Christopher Cross.

JKC said...

Yeah, the Newmanium.

The Shark said...

Yeah, the Kramanium.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. It still spills everywhere even when you "tilt it" the way they suggest. What a waste of milk and therefore not a financial savings!

Anonymous said...

You are right-on! I'm considering buying my milk at the regular grocery store from now on because I get so frustrated pouring from Biff! It's especially difficult pouring into sippy cups!

Wake-up Costco and admit your mistake! Please change your design.

Anonymous said...

I used the jug for the first time today and you are right. Everytime you use it the milk spills or you pour too much. Beleive me I will be going to buy my milk from grocery store. I am not saving if spilling more than 1/4 of the milk.

Anonymous said...

This all has to do with Wal-Mart's new sustainability scorecard that they now use to choose potential buyers. They claim that they heavily weigh the environmental impact of a vendor before carrying their product in their stores. This has companies scrambling to come up with genius ways in which to cram more product on a pallet, or better yet, use NO pallets. It's unfortunate that they have to sacrafice human factors in order to make a product that is more efficient to ship. unfortunately all milk is going to look like this soon....I dont like milk anyways.

Anonymous said...

I bought & tried the new Costco milk, and it spilled every time. I was so frustrated I searched the net to see if anyone else had this problem, and found this. Good to know I'm not the only one frustrated with the new design.

Anonymous said...

Emailed Costco today about the "new" design as I am NOT happy about it. We just got the "new" jug at our Costco in Washington over the weekend. Find out from this website that the change was made back in Oct. 2007 Doesn't look like they plan on changing the design if they are now expanding it to all their outlets. So does it really pay to lodge a complaint??? Then find out from a friend that on the Today show today they were talking about the new design, guess even the hosts couldn't pour without spilling...maybe Costco will listen to the network news but it makes it look like I was emailing because of the news story when I knew nothing about it. Just have to take pity on those who like to drink straight from the milk jug....now that would be fun to see!

Anonymous said...

Only a "Jug-Head" could have designed such a "poor" product... I say, LET'S SAY NO TO JUGS!
Can you imagine if this designer worked his way into the bleach bottle industry? Do you think the designer of this milk container ever filled up his lawn mower with a gas container that didn't have a nozzle? The Costco website has a web page that "teaches" you how to properly "tip" and not "pour"... I think the designer must have tipped too many cows as a teenager to come up with such a dumb design... And how about simply trying to pry off that paper foil seal without using your teeth? Got Milk?.... Sure do.... All over my counter!

Dr. Skeptic said...

But they fitter better in your fridge and are cheaper ounce for ounce. The aesthetics would matter more if your planned to keep it out as decoration, but it's for storing milk! In the refrigerator!

Anonymous said...

I think dr. skeptic must work for Costco... Personally I spend more time "pouring milk" than "storing" milk.... and in my neck of the woods, not cheaper at all.. especially when so much is wasted on the counter... I could care less what the container "looks like"... It is the "function" of the product... Mabey Costco should use gallon size paint cans... More Can for your Buck!

Anonymous said...

dr. skeptic must not have any children. As a mom, it is wonderful when your child reaches the age when they can pour their own glass of milk or on their cereal. Now I no longer know what age that is because I can hardly do it. I also saw on our local TV news channel the newscasters complaining how hard it was to pour the milk. I then took the time to write a complaint onto Costco's website. I think the only way this will change will be if everybody stops buying milk from there. By the way, some of you bloggers have a pretty funny scense of humor!

Dr. Skeptic said...

No kids yet, so I can't look at this from that angle and it is easy to spill. So you have a very good point. And no I don't work for Costco, I work for Trader Joes (shop there, it's amazing). But I drink about a half gallon of milk a day and with this is a perfect way for me and others to save on food purchases.

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's is awesome!

Dr. Skeptic said...

Man, it's awesome. They treat us so well, the food is the best, and it is cheap! I love working there!

Anonymous said...

thankyou for this post...I totally agree..I just bought a 2 pack. We even had an inservice with our family before opening. We were all totally for it b/c we had all heard the complaints...

We found at the beginning of the jug, it WAS easy to tilt and pour, but when you get halfway through the jug, tilt and pour won't get anymore milk out so you have to lift and pour- which leads to a dribble so tried tilt and pour over the counter and it kind of worked but still has that dribble... So like I told the check-out guy at costco...we will try it...give a 100% go, but if it doesn't work it's going back!

So I will be returning it to Costco along with the terrible no-flavor gorgonzola from Wisconisn I got on the same day.( no offense cheese heads! :)...figure that will make more of an impact than an an email...I guess that's the great thing about costco..you can try things without wrrying about not returning items...:)

I would say returning the milk will have more of an impact that a email to corporate.

Anonymous said...

I think that this proves that you can find ANYTHING on the interwebs! My wife went to Costco and came home with these new milk containers last week. I thought they looked weird but kinda cool. But now I hate them! I thought I was the only one but now I find out that LOTS of people are spilling the milk too! It's great that Kirkland isn't using the corrugated boxes but the design needs a little work!

Anonymous said...

Fix the stupid spout Costco! Milk is supposed to pour out, not dribble down the side! Idiots!

Anonymous said...

not only don't they pour well, the milk has a weird after taste... well at least it does here.

Anonymous said...

We bought our first Biffs in Portland-area Costco last week. The milk (nonfat) was not only saddled with nasty dribbling and awkward pouring, we also had nasty aftertaste issues with it.

My sons and I all independently noticed the taste issue without mentioning it to each other until the two gallons were almost gone (which took longer than usual).

Back to the regular nonfat milk at the grocery store. A little more money, but a lot better tasting and pouring milk.

Anonymous said...

Here also, the milk has a super funky taste. (Bham, AL)

Anonymous said...

Here also, the milk has a super funky taste. (Bham, AL)

Anonymous said...

I tried the jug twice, never again. I hate it.

kirsten ragen said...

You worry about the shape of the jug? I'm wondering where the kirkland dairy is, I mean they put zero info on it that way. In light of the chinese tainted milk scandal, I'm wondering if ours comes from China? Melamine anyone?

Anonymous said...

Have emailed COSTCO, have thrown fits, have purchased my milk elsewhere for more. It's been at least 8 months. I DESPISE the 'biff'. Last night, I walked past the cooler, low and behold!

THE OLD MILK CARTONS WERE BACK.

Really? Is it a fluke? Is it permanent? I have two normal containers of milk in fridge. I'm here in NV. Anyone else?

Faith restored in humanity - tentatively - just in time for Christmas.

Lana Dee said...

I hate the new jugs too! I try to buy my milk at the regular grocery but that is not always possible. Now even Walmart has this nasty jug. So I have my own solution to the pouring problem. I put my milk in my own pouring container when I get home. I don't have the spillage problem and now my milk is in a cute container. The only downside is now I have more dishes to wash.

Anonymous said...

I was just at Costco the other day, decided to cancel membership. Other discount stores have milk for cheaper, with or without the rbH, and it doesn't make a huge mess.

I'll be purchasing my milk, and everything else, elsewhere.

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Anonymous said...

the new jugs are much better. if you can't pour them without spilling, you are an idiot with bigger problems than pouring milk.

Bryan V said...

I am so annoyed at spilling milk every single time i pour that im actually posting a comment for once in my life. Costco you got this one wrong. I shop at Costco an unbelievable amount and have very little to complain about, but even my cheap self would rather pay more money to get the pour spout that does not spill milk. 32 years of my life have been spill free, now i rip off a heavy duty Kirkland brand paper towel everytime i am going to pour some milk to soak up all the wasted milk on the counter and floor. They go hand in hand. Change the dang pour spout!

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