Sainsbury’s chooses non-metric jug system

In an attempt to reduce packaging waste, Sainsbury’s has begun selling milk in 2-pint plastic bags. It is claimed that the bags will reduce milk packaging waste by 75%.

The idea is that the 2-pint bags should be used in conjunction with a specially-designed 2-pint jug which will also be available in store.

By choosing not to use litres for milk, Sainsbury’s will be presented with a dilemma if they want to extend the idea to other products. Should they start selling bags of fruit juice or wine in non-standard 2-pint sizes?, or should they stock a second, more standard-sized, jug for 1-litre bags? Even after the deregulation of package sizes, however, wine will continue to be required to be sold in prescribed quantities which do not include 2 pints.

20 thoughts on “Sainsbury’s chooses non-metric jug system”

  1. This could be seen as an unwitting restraint on trade (which is illegal) as one-litre jugs are common-place throughout the EU, but the Sainsbury 2-pint milk pack will require a 2 pint (1.14 L jug) which will have to be specially manufactured for the UK market.


  2. Why is it taking so long to metricate milk sizes. My local coop now sells milk by the litre, however everywhere else sells it by the pint with a silly metric conversion. 2 pints is advertised as 1.136 litres (as if the volume is correct to that number of significant figures).

    Milk seems to be one of the last items generally sold in non-metric quantities, and if they want to return to using the crazy system of fluid ounces, then they will lose my custom.


  3. Hardly environmentally friendly. Forgetting that we’re currently being encouraged not to use plastic bags for other purposes on environmental grounds (my local council won’t take plastic bags in my recycled waste!), what about the environmental impact of the production of these jugs in a non-standard size? Metric size containers could be manufactured in such a manner that they could be sold for use with other products but could also be sold in other countries.

    Such containers made for the British pint couldn’t even be sold in the US, let alone the rest of the world!


  4. This seems like a most unfortunate and unnecessary step backwards. And, as the post points out, rather puzzling as well given the obstacles Sainsbury’s would face in trying to expand this kind of packaging.

    Has anyone been able to get information from Sainsbury’s about the genuine rationale for the decision to package in pints rather than litres?


  5. According to this link, the jug-it bags are on a trial basis only in select markets for only 8 weeks until early August and only at these limited stores:

    Sainsbury isn’t even sure it will sell. If you don’t hear about it after August, you can be assured it went bust.

    Sainsbury produced this product in partnership with Dairy Crest. They may be the culprit behind the pints over the litres.

    It might be in the interest of the UKMA to contact both Dairy Crest and Sainsbury directly to inquire about selling the bags in litre sizes if they go into production after the test marketing.

    Some comments by readers of on-line articles have already complained that the product is not in litres.

    One person said:

    “What are they going to do when they extend the scheme to wine and fruit juices? Sell us another jug but 1-litre this time? ”

    Humphrey, Telford, UK


  6. All milk, except supermarket fresh milk, is packaged in rational metric sizes. So, does this mean that Sainsbury’s is not considering reducing the packaging waste for other types of milk, such as long-life, filtered or soya milk?


  7. The use of plastic bags and pouring the milk into a plastic jug has long been used in Canada and various parts of the US. I still have my 1-litre jug (yes, 1-litre) that I brought back with me from Canada – I guess that I will not be able to use that! How just utterly silly this is – what were the Sainsburys exceutives responsible for this decision smoking at the time?


  8. This is fantastic, finally the big shops are realising that imperial measurements are more popular than metric and that most people prefer buying milk in pints. I hope the other stores follow suit.


  9. It is understandable that Tabitha is pleased to hear of this but it is wrong to suggest that big shops are suddenly “realising that imperial measurements are more popular than metric and that most people prefer buying milk in pints”.

    In case you hadn’t noticed it is quite hard to find ordinary liquid milk packaged in litres in the UK which has been the case for some years. So what’s new? In any case if litres are not available for most brands of milk how can anyone tell what the buyer prefers? Other consumable liquids such as fruiit juice can only be bought in metric quantities so are we to conclude that people prefer metric for fruit juice?


  10. I bought a 1-litre jug last year from Waitrose for use with their 1-litre milk bags. I don’t see why I should have to buy another jug from Sainsbury’s.

    Perhaps Sainsbury’s can tell me how to fit their quart into my litre pot 🙂


  11. a marvellous way to cut down on plastic bottles.Well done Sainsburys


  12. I think what Tabitha fails to realise is that if all the supermarkets suddenly dropped the pint there would probably be a brief outcry in the tabloids then, after a short period, most people would wonder what all the fuss had been about.

    After all, we don’t see people picketing petrol stations because they can’t buy in gallons… most when the younger generation speak of gallons now they usually mean 5 litres and no doubt very few of them could tell you how many pints are in a gallon!


  13. I am prompted by m. powell’s contribution but see it in a wider context and hope that others will accept it if I go off topic a little.

    Most right-minded people nowadays value changes that address (sensibly)the very serious issue of environmental management.

    I offer here a sincere perspective intended to show that the objective of a single rational system of measurement has a key role to play.

    I’m not an expert on plastics or profess to know the economics of recycling material versus the practice of re-using existing containers etc but it strikes me that the real issue is trying to find a cheap and lighter substitute for glass with all it’s advantages and none of the hazards of being easily breakable and becoming dangerous when it does so.

    Plastice bags instead of rigid containers may seem a step in the right direction but in the end it is still part of that extravagent throw away mentality that got us into trouble in the first place.

    Whatever the solution in the end it will not be helped by a plethora of different incompatible sized containers being sustained by the backward notion that old units of measurement have to be preserved for old times sake.


  14. I visited the site to learn what UK is doing with measurments and I was amazed at the mess UK is in with imperial / metric. Thankfully Australia has been metric for 3 decades. It is by far the best method and much simpler than the antiquated and outmoded imperial system. We buy milk in litres – very simple and containers are measured the same way. It is not cool to resist change which represents genuine progress. Just accept and agitate for a better system – good luck in trying to work you way around the mishmash you currently have.


  15. Sainsbury’s in Northern Ireland sells milk in litres only so I assume these will not venture across the Irish Sea. Are Northern Ireland people less backward than people in Britain in terms or progress I wonder? They obviously cross the border to the Republic without having a nervous breakdown at the sight of all metric road signage….


  16. It should be noted that Autralia started her metrication program in response to Britain starting her metrication program. Moreover, there was no “pro-EU” sentiment behind the Australian program – on the contrary as the short term the Australian economy was hurt by Britain joining the EU with Australia losing her “Commonwealth Preference” advantage in the UK market.


  17. It is getting close to the end of the 8 week trial period. Any word so far if the trial was a success or failure?


  18. The Weights and Measures Act 1985 (as amended) sets out the units of measurement that are “legal for trade”; that is, the legal units that MUST be used when weighing or measuring goods at the point of sale or letting. With one or two exceptions (draught beer and cider, and milk in returnable bottles) these are exclusively metric.

    The bags or plastic flagons for milk, labelled primarily in pints, must therefore be regarded as returnable.

    May I suggest, that all such bags or flagons are returned to the supermarket for them to reuse.


  19. I have been using these for a few months now. They are more practical in the fridge, cleaner, they don’t spill easily when pouring and they save 75% of the plastic. A great innovation and people should stop complaining and approve this major reduction in plastic. As for the unit of measurement, it is good for the brain to do a bit of conversion! It might improve the brain training score!!!


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