Packaging and distribution


Although the glass milk bottle is still the traditional packaging medium for retail milk distribution, single-service paper/plastic containers are increasingly being adopted for the same purpose. A survey has shown that in some European countries they have captured two-thirds of the market. A beginning in this field has also lately been made in India. As far as milk packaging is concerned, paper is a carrier for a water-proof layer of either polyethylene or wax. The provision for 5 to 10 per cent of synthetic fibres is said not to influence the printing or folding capacity of the paper, but rather to provide better wet strength. Dominated, in milk packing, by polylefines (such as polypropylene and polyethylene’s), used singly or blended to offer a wide range of materials, plastics have superseded paper in recent times. The polyolefines of interest are coating grades for cartons, film grades for sachets and extrusion/blowing grades for bottles.

Cartons are commonly used for both bulk and retail sale

They are made of combinations of food grade paper and wax or plastics. The distribution advantages of cartons are: maximum space utilization in vehicles and storage, ability to carry attractive printing, and convenience for the purpose of stacking milk on super-market shelves. The carton systems in common use are: Perga (U.K); Pure Pak (USA); Zupack, Blockpack (W.Germany); and Tetra Pack (Sweden). When filling the cartons, either pre-formed or pre-cut blanks may be used. Pre-formed cartons are supplied in a fully erect form ready for filling; in the pre-cut system the blanks are supplied in a knocked down shape and the final carton is set up, formed, filled and sealed on one machine.

Sachets are flexible water-proof bags

Since it is difficult to pour from sachets, they are usually equipped with a jug. The sachet systems in common uses are: Polypack, Bertopack (Switzerland); Finnpack (Finland); Milk Pack, Rotapack (W.Germany); and Prepac (France). Sachet filling of milk usually follows a form/fill/seal system. The sachets are formed from a reeled film over a shoulder and tube-forming sealer. Their size is changed simply by pushing a button without stopping the machine. The relative advantage and disadvantages of paper/film packaging of milk over bottling are given below:


  • Light in weight, easy to handle and no danger of breakage.

  • Distribution costs lower (occupies less space, lower pay-load due to light weight, no collection of empties).

  • Bottle-washing costs eliminated (Saving in equipment, detergents, steam, etc.).

  • Tamper-proof,

  • Effective sales message can be printed.

  • Less noisy (during filling, sealing and transportation).

  • No exposure to sunlight.

  • Filling machinery compact and occupies much less space.

  • No container deposit needed.


  • Costs higher per unit milk distributed.
  • Product not visible.
  • Difficult to remove cream.
  • Inspection of milk (for sediment) not possible.
  • Regular supply of special paper/film essential.
  • Not so easy to open.
  • Some cases of leakage may occur.


a) Introduction

Distribution of milk is the last or final stage of the market milk industry. Others are preparatory to placing the product into the hands of the consumer. The quality of the product alone will not assure its wide distribution, which should be planned and executed intelligently. Distribution facilities consist of;

  • The physical equipment and personnel required for transporting the product from the milk storage rooms to the consumer/retailer.

  • Sales promotion personnel.

  • Advertising.

A successful distribution programme requires;

  • A product of high quality.

  • An attractive package.

  • Neat and courteous route salesmen.

  • Delivery equipment of pleasing appearance.

  • Efficient use of men and equipment.

  • Effective advertising. 

b) Route organization

This varies with the size and the type of business. In a small plant, the same drivers and trucks may deliver both wholesale and retail goods. In larger organizations, wholesale and retail distributions are usually handled by separate personnel and equipment. Wholesale routes handle larger volumes and have fewer stops than do retail routes. For economical operation, the truck should be utilized for a maximum number of hours per day for milk distribution.

 c) Payment of route salesmen

Three different methods are in use:

  • Flat salary. Gives no incentive to sell more products, secure new customers.

  • Salary plus commission. Most satisfactory.

  • Straight commission. Used when the driver owns the route and equipment.

d) Checking out the routes

Different systems may be used for loading the trucks in checking out the routes. The trucks must be loaded rapidly so that the drivers are not delayed at loading stations. The principal systems are:

  • Loading directly from the storage rooms through one or more doors.

  • Using a long loading platform with coveyors from the milk-storage rooms.

  • Loading platform-trolleys in the storage room with orders for the different routes. The platform trolleys are the wheeled onto the loading platform and finally loaded into the delivery trucks. (The first two systems are suitable for medium size and large plants, the third for small ones).

  1. Checking in the routes
  2. This consists of verifying the driver’s count of empty bottles and unsold goods and conveying the bottles to the washers or to storage. The driver usually places the bottles on the platform, coveyor or platform-trolly.

  3. Sales outlets

These include (for both wholesale and retail sales) the following:

  1. Home delivery.

  2. Milk booths or distribution depots/bars.

  3. Stores.

  4. Soda fountains

  5. Coin vending machines

  6. Automatic dispensers

  7. Factories, hospitals, jails, restaurants, schools, etc.

  • Lunch counters
  1. Anticipating daily demand

This is usually based on past experience, taking into consideration holidays, fairs and festivals, special events, etc.

h) Frequency of distribution

Due to highly changeable temperatures during most seasons and the lack of refrigeration facilities at the average customer’s home in India the milk has to be distributed twice daily. Viz., morning and evening. In cold countries, one-time delivery is usual.

i) Utilization of returned milk

Unsold milk presents a problem of economic disposal. Under tropical conditions, as in India, the returned milk should not be sent again for sale as liquid milk since exposure to high temperatures during its inward and outward journeys subject it to quality deterioration and hence may cause consumer complaints. The unsold milk can be given for separation or utilized for preparation of dahi, etc.

  1. Systems of collection for the payment of milk

These are credit, cash or advance payment (coupon/ monthly card).