Milk Minute: On The Edge of Creativity

By Greg Soehnlen, MMPA Chief Operating and Business Development Officer

Innovation is central to MMPA’s vision and the future of the dairy industry. The acquisition of Superior Dairy in 2021, included Creative Edge, a think tank with experience in creative packaging solutions, that helps deliver on MMPA’s mission to market members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible.

This summer, MMPA is launching the next innovation from Creative Edge: a 96-ounce bottle made from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). Like all innovations, it may be new to the market, but it isn’t new to us. Our team has been working on the idea of the 96-ounce bottle made from PET since 2016, as a new iteration of the current caseless technology we developed in the early 2000s.

Similar to the foundation of the caseless technology that doesn’t require the return of the pallet/case after dropping the product off at the retailer, this new innovation came through partnership with several large retailers that led to conducting research interviews. Through the interviews, we discovered that the future of dairy packaging isn’t necessarily about enhancing dairy, but developing a business model that targets consumer products.

When we set out to begin our next innovation, we didn’t intend to create a bottle made from PET, but to reconfigure a bottle made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), the standard packaging material for a gallon of milk. As we continued to design, we found ourselves migrating to PET because it is about three times stronger than HPDE with a very clear appearance when it is in its final form.

PET has very good moisture and vapor barriers and is used for a broad spectrum of consumer products, making it even more appealing given that it aligns with consumer trends outside of our industry. PET bottle manufacturing utilizes preforms which are pre-molded resin blocks that are fed into a stretch blow machine that forms the bottle. This manufacturing process is flexible, allowing us to create different sized packages using similar equipment, another benefit of PET.

A downfall of the PET technology is that it doesn’t allow for the traditional handle found on milk gallons, so instead requires grip features on the sides of the bottle. Creative Edge addressed this challenge by studying other engineered PET products in the market and spent two years developing different grip features and testing them with consumers. The team utilized 3D printing and consumer focus groups to gain feedback and understanding of what’s important when you reach into a dairy case and grab a gallon of milk.

After successful testing and preparation to launch, the innovation was delayed with the onset of COVID-19. Today, the entire team is excited to launch this innovation in a production setting after years of development. The production team at Canton has been able to successfully integrate the 96-ounce package through its current filling system and after our initial launch, Creative Edge will continue to adapt to consumers reaction to the package, merchandising and shipping.

Now, the team at Creative Edge is looking for the next challenge. The innovations will not stop here, as we work to continue enhancing our members’ milk and finding value in future innovations.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »