Cutting Edge Milk Packaging: How New Technology Is Changing Your Milk Experience
If you can remember milk being delivered to your doorstep in glass bottles, you’re dating yourself to the mid-1960s. That’s when plastic-coated paper milk cartons replaced those iconic glass bottles. Milk drinkers can now find their beverage of choice not just in skim, 1%, 2%, whole or cream, they can also find it in plastic jugs, plastic bags, coated cardboard and yes, even that classic doorstep bottle.
Milk containers have gone through several changes over the last few decades but the specifications remain the same. A milk container must have certain qualities:
- Watertight and waterproof
- Easy to pour
- Simple to mass produce
- Easily transportable
- Protect the milk from spoilage
Milk has come a long way from the mid-1800s. Back then, milk was stored in metal cans called churns that were used to transport raw milk from rural areas to towns.
The glass milk bottle was introduced in 1884 and was widely adopted as the ideal container for milk. It could be easily washed and sterilized which meant milk stored in these bottles was safe to drink for a few days. Milk companies could pick up the empty bottles and easily recycle them for next week’s delivery.
Waxed paper cartons first made their appearance in 1933. Originally they featured simple paper dipped in paraffin wax but were later updated to polyethylene plastic.
Plastic bottles were the next innovation. They came with handles that made it easy to pour and to re-seal. In Canada, they use rectangular plastic bags that are inserted into a reusable jug before snipping of a small corner of the bag to enable easy pouring.
The newest innovation in packaging involves a new technology called aseptic milk packaging. Milk stored in these cartons is called shelf-safe or Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk. The special Tetra-Pak cartons prevent any air or light from reaching the milk, which remains so pure and fresh that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated until the carton is opened. The milk in these packages is treated differently to traditional pasteurized milk.
Normally, raw milk is pasteurized (meaning it is heated for 15-20 seconds at 161-167°F) after which it is cooled and packaged in traditional cartons or plastic bottles.
Ultra High Temperature milk is heated at 275-284°F for 3 seconds and then packaged in Tetra-Pak containers. These cartons are manufactured from paper and a thin layer of aluminum. Milk stored in them can be stored on a shelf for up to six months without refrigeration or the use preservatives. And much like those original glass bottles, they’re even recyclable.
Benefits of New Technology
One of the problems of milk stored in clear glass bottles or in opaque plastic is that UV light affects the flavor of milk. The Tetra-Pak features six different layers that lock in flavors while keeping oxygen and light out.