Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hold The Bottle, I'll Have Mine In A Bag

In the United States, people almost always buy milk and drinking water in bottles. The milk comes in a container that looks something like this:

In Europe, milk is frequently purchased in boxes that look like these that I found in a supermarket in Colombia:

What's different here is that people frequently buy items that are packaged in bags. For example, this is milk for sale in bags:

It's a lot cheaper to buy the bagged products rather than the bottled ones. Liquid (drinkable) yogurt is fairly popular in Spain and pretty much all I can find here in Colombia. It's not too popular in the U.S. except mostly as a "treat" for kids. These bagged liquid yogurts cost half of what their bottled counterparts do (4390 Pesos versus almost 9000 Pesos in the bottle):

You can also buy single-serving sized bags of water. These cost 300 Pesos ($0.15 U.S.) each versus the equivalent sized 1000 Peso ($0.50 U.S.) bottle:

Bagged water isn't just limited to a single-serving size. These are 5 liter bags of water I saw in a local market:

In thinking about the bagged-versus-bottled product prices, I don't understand the dramatic difference. Let's say a plastic bottle costs $0.10 (U.S.) and a plastic bag costs $0.01 (U.S.), where are the rest of the cost savings? Transportation savings? I don't see that adding up to the difference. Inconvenience discount? Doubtful but possible. Like the examples that I show here, I've seen savings of 50% for choosing the bag over the bottle.

I'm not sure if we'll see this trend happen in the U.S. Price aside, bags are just not as convenient as bottles. You need to consume the product immediately or transfer it to a bottle or other container since you can't put the bag down once you've opened it. People in the U.S. might not be willing to deal with the inconvenience but, to me, the much cheaper prices seem well worth the trouble. Hold the bottle, I'll have mine in a bag.

Edit: 31 July 2012 - Something that hadn't occurred to me when I wrote this, but that I'm much more conscious of living in Europe, is the deposit on bottled foods. For example, here in Germany, where I'm writing this, you have to pay something like a $0.25 U.S. deposit on every drink bottle. You get the money back, assuming that you return the empty bottle, but buying a bagged water, for example, would save you the hassle and you could just recycle the bag with your regular plastic recycling (assuming they take bags in your area).


  1. I see this post is over a year old, but I found it becasue I just did a race and they gave use bagged bottles. I thought it was a great concept and wanted to see where I can purchase some. As a runner in Florida, we drop water for all of our runs. It would be great to have a single serving of water and then tuck the empty bag in your pocket until I found a trash can. I haven't had any luck finding them to purchase, but hoping that this race is the first of many to jump on the bagged bandwagon.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Since I wrote this, I've seen more and more things sold in bags that used to come in other packaging. Maybe ziplock some water for your runs? I could see someone using their batman/darth vader utility belt with some bagged water! :-D


All comments are reviewed prior to being posted.