The benefits to the retailer supply chain are obvious. Because the new jugs can be simply stacked on each other with only a slip sheet in between fillers no longer have to manage, clean, and pay for the crates that are required to ship the current gallon milk.
For the consumer the benefits are less obvious. While milk in new jugs cost 15% less than the old one the consumer must pay a price. It seems that the new jugs don’t poor as well. According to the NYTimes the milk jugs, “make consumers feel like novices at the simple task of pouring a glass of milk.”
Changing your product in order to benefit yourself despite the fact that your customer has neither asked for the change or expressly benefits from it seems to be a trend lately.
Last May Wal-Mart pushed the laundry detergent manufacturers to concentrate their formulations so that the bottles could be downsized 50%. (Link) The smaller bottles save on part, shipping, and stocking costs. And the retail price difference between the old bottle and the new one? Zero.
Companies have always been looking to cost reduce their products without effecting consumer perception. Plastic lids on yogurt and the amount of Oreos in a box come to mind. But these changes are different in that they have been ordered by the retailer.
Retailers have always had their hands in the consumer product pot: asking for multi-packs, or a shorter bottle to fit a particular shelving set. But historically their requests have been restricted to packaging. The detergent and milk changes are different in that they affected the product. In the detergent case the formula had to change and the new milk jug does not poor as well.