Here's Why Canadian Milk Often Comes In Bags

Milk does a body good, at least that's how the old marketing slogan goes. But that goodness happens regardless if the milk is poured from a jug or a plastic bag. Milk in a plastic bag, eh? Yep, it's the Canadian way, well, as long as you live in Canada — particularly the province of Ontario. According to The Takeout, milk in these plastic bags is sold in the grocery stores and contains three pouches that are collectively equal to about a gallon. A few years ago, this may have sounded weird, but according to Packaging Digest, thin plastic pouches are a modern trend with an environmentally-minded population eschewing rigid plastic containers. Even in the United States, all you have to do is walk down an aisle and you would be hard-pressed not to see pouches of pureed fruits, concentrated broths, olives, and tuna fish — and the list goes on.

Pouches seem like a hip way of packaging up our household staples, but milk in a pouch may take some time to catch on. Milk containers, whether plastic, paper, or glass, seem way more convenient and easier to pour from, at least to those of us who have grown up knowing nothing else. And not to fan the flames, but there are people in Canadian provinces other than Ontario who even think milk in pouches is a little odd, drawing lines in the sand and giving the pouch-drinking province the proverbial Heisman for their strange milk container ways (via The Star).

Canadians use plastic pouches for convenience

Canadians, and specifically people in Ontario, weren't always the odd man out. They, too, once embraced glass jugs and paper cartons of dairy. The genesis of the seemingly unconventional plastic pouch container was more about how the milk got from point A to point B. Glass bottles were both heavy and fragile, making transporting this dairy product to the market an expensive proposition. In 1967, the Canadian food and packaging company, DuPont, was the first on the scene to create milk in a plastic bag option that eventually caught on. While Ontario purchases the greatest percentage of milk in pouches with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the province buying milk this way, 50 percent of Canadians have made purchasing milk in pouches a household staple (via Food Network).

Are pouches better for the environment? Canadians consumed 2.8 million metric tons of milk in 2019. In comparison, Americans consumed 21.7 million metric tons of milk in 2019 (via Statista). If you think of this in terms of packaging, Americans are quickly outpacing their Maple Leaf friends when it comes to packaging waste. As with all things, there are tradeoffs when it comes to packaging. Packaging Digest points out that pouches take up less room in our landfill waste, but they are not recyclable. However, they require less energy to produce and help to cut down on CO2 emissions.