So why isn’t the U.S. more keen on them? Large manufacturers of plastic jugs and cartons certainly don’t want bagged milk encroaching on their market dominance. Even in Canada, there are politics at play. In 2013, a milk war broke out in Ontario when Mac’s Convenience Stores announced plans to make milk available in three-liter containers. The Dairy Farmers Of Ontario, which represents cow farmers, had concerns about what a new three-liter option would do to the sales of farmers’ four-liter bags. Meanwhile, the Ontario Dairy Council, representing the interests of the factories that process and package milk, wanted to give consumers the downsized option.


In December 2014, Mac’s launched a pilot program for the three-liter jugs, but the Ontario Dairy Council argued to the Agriculture, Food And Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal that this program gave an unfair advantage to certain retailers. Eventually, the ODC won, and regulations on milk packaging in Ontario were altered to allow for three-liter jugs across the board. Milk bags lost some of their dominance.

No doubt, America would face a similar war with the introduction of milk bags. The U.S. milk industry is heavily regulated and controlled by giant milk companies. In 2003, when a man in Southern California started bottling his own milk and selling it for 20 cents less than the average gallon in his area, a powerful conglomerate of large milk companies and dairies spent $5 million to lobby Congress, successfully, to pass a bill strengthening price-control laws. Then there’s the matter of many large U.S. dairy companies, including Dean Foods Co., that produce their own jugs in-house; so much of the milk industry is intertwined with the jug industry.


Plus, American consumers just don’t seem that open to changing their milk ways. Chertoff points out in The Atlantic’s history of the milk carton that it took two to three decades for the carton to catch on for American consumers, who held onto their precious glass bottles for as long as possible.

Perhaps no food or beverage is more associated with habitual routines than milk, so even the smallest change in its packaging can be startling. It seems more likely that U.S. dairy companies will move toward more environmentally friendly jugs than throwing away the jug concept altogether. In fact, a Kroger’s dairy in Virginia just launched a new lightweight gallon jug that uses 10 percent less plastic than the old jugs, and more Kroger’s dairies are expected to do the same this year. It looks like milk bags won’t be normalized in the U.S. any time soon.