Milk bag

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Neilson Dairy milk bags and cartons, Ontario, Canada
Milk bags on a shelf in Budapest, Hungary

A milk bag is a plastic bag that contains milk. Usually one of the corners is cut off to allow for pouring, and the bag is stored in a pitcher or jug.

A typical milk bag contains approximately 1 L (1.8 imp pt) of milk in South America, Iran, Israel, and continental European countries, while in the United Kingdom they contain 2 imperial pints (1.1 L), in Canada 1+13 litres (2.3 imp pt), and in India, 0.5 L (0.9 imp pt).[1]


In Canada, before the late 1960s, milk was packaged in heavy, reusable Imperial unit glass milk bottles and later cardboard cartons and plastic jugs. In 1967, DuPont, using European equipment, introduced plastic bags to store and sell milk. With Canada’s conversion to the metric system in the 1970s, bottles, jugs, and cartons had to be thrown out, re-designed, and manufactured in metric units, while milk bag packaging machines could easily be resized.[2][3][4]

The milk bags found favour with the domestic dairy industry, being lighter and less fragile than glass bottles. However, the consumer public preferred plastic jugs for years, but largely accepted the new containers in parts of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes in the 1970s.[5] Regulation in Ontario that required retailers to collect a deposit on milk jugs, but not bags, also motivated the practice.[6]


In the Baltic rim countries, e.g., Estonia, and some Eastern European countries, the similar bags may also be seen used for packaging yogurt or kefir.

By country and region[edit]


Milk bags were used in Australia (Greater Shepparton, Victoria), in the late 1990s, distributed by Shepparton-based dairy company Ducats. They were also used in Gympie, Queensland, in the 1970s and early 1980s, and also in Caboolture, Queensland around the same time. These were one pint in size.


Colloquially known as sachets, La Serenisima first adopted the milk bag in 1968 as a replacement for then more common glass bottle. Initially a cost-cutting measure, the 1l. sachet steadily grew in popularity as it proved more convenient and cheaper than carton or plastic jugs. Nowadays all dairy companies offer recyclable multi-use plastic sachets.


A milk bag in Ontario, Canada

Milk bags are sold in parts of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, but not widely sold in western Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador, or the territories.[5] Three bags are sold together in a larger bag containing a total of 4 L (7 imp pt) of milk. The bags are not sold individually, and are either not labeled at all or labeled with only the expiry date, the lot number, and sometimes the type of milk contained in the bag. The three-bag 4 L (7 imp pt) package is the largest normally sold at retail, with the lowest unit price. Some convenience store chains offer 4 L (7 imp pt) plastic jugs instead of milk bags, even in eastern Canada. Two accessories are commonly associated with Canadian milk bags — pitchers and bag openers. The key-shaped bag opener with a clip and a magnet was invented in Toronto in 1979.[7] These bag openers are a common type of refrigerator magnet, although the bags can be opened with scissors or knives. Large milk bags inside corrugated boxes (bag-in-box) are often used in milk dispensers at schools and institutions.


In urban parts of India, milk is most commonly sold in 0.5-litre and 1-litre bags.


Israeli milk bag

In Israel, milk in a bag is the most common type of packaging for milk. They became the standard form of milk packaging in the 1960s, with the discontinuation of glass bottles. In Israel, the milk bag is a regulated product, which means that its price is controlled by the state. Therefore, there are price differences between the milk bags and the other alternatives available for marketing milk — plastic bottles or milk cartons. Due to the price differences, a relationship was observed between the socioeconomic status of the consumer and the type of milk container that they customarily purchased. The higher the socio-economic status of the purchaser, the more likely they are to buy milk in cartons rather than in bags, despite the higher price of cartons. Based on these differences, Blue Square Network created a way to measure the socioeconomic status of an area based on the sales ratio of milk cartons versus bagged milk. The higher the ratio of the former to the latter, the higher the status of the region in Israel.[8] For religious Jews, opening a bag of milk can be considered problematic on Shabbat, because the action requires cutting. Eli Yishai, Israel's former minister of internal affairs, used empty milk bags in the Knesset as props to complain about price-hikes in the cost of milk.[9]


In Korea, milk was occasionally sold in plastic bags until 1988. Since 1974, Seoul Milk has been marketing coffee milk in small, single-serving 200 ml (7.0 imp fl oz; 6.8 US fl oz) bags.[10]


In Mexico, assistance programs and prior welfare and government social programs distribute milk in bags (1 l (1.8 imp pt) per bag) at very low prices.[11]

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, milk is commonly sold in 1L bags, called ‘sachets’, by companies including Darling Romery, Pick n Pay, Shoprite Checkers, and Denmar Dairies, as an alternative to plastic containers and cartons, which are however more common. The sachets are usually fit inside a separately bought plastic milk jug for easy pouring.

South America[edit]

Milk bag packaging machine
Plastic pitcher for a milk bag in Israel

Milk bags are also commonly used in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.[12]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, Sainsbury's began a pilot experiment on distributing milk in bags in 2008 in conjunction with Dairy Crest.[13] It was originally targeted at 35 stores at the same price as a regular 2-imperial-pint (1.1 l) plastic bottle of milk.[14] The product was expanded nationwide in 2010, at which point the bags retailed at a discounted price compared to traditional containers.[15][16] In the UK, the bags are usually used in conjunction with a specialized plastic jug.[17] The bag fits snugly inside the jug; one corner of the bag is secured under a bar at the front of the jug, and as the lid is closed, the bag is pierced and a spout slides into the hole, maintaining freshness and allowing the milk to be easily poured. Doorstep deliveries in the United Kingdom are normally associated with traditional glass milk bottles, but the Dairy Crest/Milk & More service also delivers milk bags and sells JugIt brand plastic jugs specially designed to hold the milk bags.[18][19] After lengthy negotiations, Milk & More was bought by dairy giant Müller from Dairy Crest in December 2015 and sales of the JugIt plastic bags ceased.[20][21]

United States[edit]

Some dairies in the United States used the bags in the 1980s, but today milk bags are extremely rare, confined mainly to regional convenience store chains with in-house dairies, such as Kwik Trip in the Upper Midwest and other boutique dairies.

In the late 80's and early 90's, bagged milk was found in school districts in 24 states.[22] The DuPont produced "mini-sip pouches" replaced the traditional carton for a short-time. However, the popularity of them waned. There appears to only be one, verified school district in Omaha, NE using bagged milk as recently as 2015.[23]

Milk bags continue to be used in the food service industry, where the milk bag is usually put in a container for use with a milk dispenser.

Food service milk bag with container to be put in the dispenser.


In Vietnam, milk is widely sold in smaller 200 ml (6.7 fl oz.) Tetra Pak bags. All major dairy companies of Vietnam offer a wide range of products, including UHT plain milk, chocolate milk and soy milk, in bags.

Milk pitcher with lid


The principal benefits of bagged milk are economy and freshness. For producers, it is easier to vary portion size when sealing bags than cartons, as well as lowering the cost of packaging. Milk bags also take up less space in the garbage. For consumers, bags typically allow for smaller portion sizes. This theoretically reduces the risk of spoilage, as well as the space and location of storage in the fridge.[24]


On occasion, the top of the bag can turn over while pouring, causing the milk to spill. Spillage can be avoided by cutting a secondary hole at the other side of the bag for air intake, by pinching the top of the bag while pouring, or by using a pitcher with a lid to keep the milk bag in place.[citation needed]

Milk bags cannot easily be sealed once open, although some consumers fold over the spout and use clips to help maintain freshness. Also, some companies use common single-ply LDPE bags which are easy to pierce and tear, and must be handled and transported with care to avoid product losses.

Environmental concerns[edit]

While milk bags use less plastic than standard plastic bottles or jugs, empty bags are often not accepted when mixed with other plastics.[25] In Canada, where recycling services are municipally or regionally managed, milk bags may not always be recycled. In some municipalities milk bags are required to be discarded as garbage[26] and in others they are recyclable.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Washburn, Devin; Sumar, Sai. "What's up with Bagged Milk?". Lucky Peach. Lucky Peach. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  2. ^ Jackson, Lisa (27 Feb 2017). "Why Do Canadians Drink Bagged Milk?". Archived from the original on 2017-10-12. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  3. ^ Gibson, Brittany (2021-07-09). "This Is Why Canadians Drink Milk Out of Bags". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 2021-08-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Houck, Brenna (2019-10-21). "Why America's Milk Is Sold in Cartons, Not Bags". Eater. Retrieved 2021-08-16.
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Cathal (2010-02-04). "So we drink milk from bags. Does that make us weird?". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
  6. ^ Heydari, Anis (January 2, 2020). "Here's why milk comes in bags in parts of Canada". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  7. ^ "The Snippit". Tangibles Ltd.
  8. ^ Yefet, Orna (8 Dec 2003). "L-2834517,00.html On the relationship between buying milk and socioeconomic status". Retrieved 1 May 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)[dead link]
  9. ^ "הכנסת: אלי ישי הניף שקית חלב במחאה על ייקור מחירה" [Knesset: Eli Yishai waved a bag of milk in protest of a price increase.]. Ynet (in Hebrew). 2005-01-31. Retrieved 2021-08-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Product Description Coffee Milk, Seoul Milk Website, February 16, 2021 (in Korean)
  11. ^ SEDESOL, Liconsa (2012-04-27). "Liconsa". Sedesol. Mexico.
  12. ^ Chertoff, Emily (2012-08-01). "The Surprising History of the Milk Carton". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  13. ^ Blades, Hollye (2008-06-09). "Pinta goes green as supermarkets offer shoppers the chance to buy milk in a bag". The Times. London. Retrieved 16 Aug 2021.
  14. ^ Neate, Rupert (2008-06-09). "Milk in bags hits Sainsbury's shelves". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  15. ^ Wallop, Harry (2010-02-24). "Milk in a bag at Sainsbury's". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2012-11-14.
  16. ^ "Jug It says it has nationwide success". Food Processing Magazine. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2021-08-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "Dairy Crest Says The Time is Right for the Milk Bag and Jug Format". ADPI - American Dairy Products Institute. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  18. ^ "Beverage packaging: Sainsbury expands support of pouch-based milk packaging". 2010-05-05. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  19. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (2010-08-11). "Supermarket giant rolls out greener alternatives to plastic milk bottles". the Guardian. Retrieved 2021-08-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ White, Kevin (2014-11-07). "Müller set to review future of Milk & More doorstep deliveries". The Grocer. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  21. ^ "Why I love milk bags". Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  22. ^ Houck, Brenna (2019-10-21). "Why America's Milk Is Sold in Cartons, Not Bags". Eater. Retrieved 2022-09-12.
  23. ^ Schools replace milk carton with milk bags, retrieved 2022-09-12
  24. ^ Nosowitz, Dan (2015-10-20). "What's The Point Of Milk That Comes In Plastic Bags?". Modern Farmer. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  25. ^ "Can I Recycle Plastic Bags in the Recycling Bin?". Plastics Make it Possible. 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  26. ^ "City of Ottawa - Recycling and Garbage - Milk Bags". Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  27. ^ "Recycling List - City of Peterborough" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2021-08-17.

External links[edit]

Media related to Milk bags at Wikimedia Commons