Why the Milkman Model Is the Future of Consumption

January 31, 2019

A cultural shift is changing how businesses operate – and interact with customers.

This seismic change was on full display at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where I participated in a thought-provoking event on the future of consumer goods.

Put simply: We saw the power of the circular economy in action. And we saw that what’s old is new again.

I’ll explain.

Thinking outside the box

We announced there our participation in a coalition of the world’s largest consumer product companies, led by international recycling leader TerraCycle.

Together, we unveiled an innovative new system designed to reduce single-use product packaging.

Known as Loop™, this breakthrough system provides consumers with direct delivery of a variety of products. The packages arrive not in a cardboard box – but in a customized, durable tote that can be reused again and again. The products are designed for delivery, then collected, cleaned, refilled and redelivered. It’s an exciting step toward reducing the use of disposable packaging and cardboard boxes.

TerraCycle is launching a pilot program in New York and Paris to fine tune efforts before wider deployment.

This is a creative solution, helping to shape how consumer goods companies interact with customers. This new system positions customers as partners in reducing package waste and shows the power of innovation to move us closer to a greener future.

UPS engineers have teamed up with TerraCycle to design and test a first-of-its-kind reusable tote for consumer goods. Watch the video above to learn more about Loop™.
 

Embracing new roles

UPS has a longstanding commitment to environmental efforts. As supply chains shift from linear, single direction systems toward a circular economy, UPS has created product return and reverse logistics solutions for customers, resulting in a measurable impact on waste, emissions, and the bottom line.

We’ve pushed past traditional logistics models to address the new e-commerce economy, using technology to help residential customers control their home deliveries while eliminating wasted delivery attempts – and the carbon emissions that come with them.

This latest engagement emerged from both of our companies embracing new roles. UPS has long been a TerraCycle logistics provider, helping the company address the complexities of moving goods across global borders.

When TerraCycle presented the Loop concept, the UPS Package Design and Test Lab incorporated insights gathered from thousands of packaging tests to help design the new approach. The engineers at the UPS Lab implemented rigorous real-world shipment tests to gather knowledge that shaped the design of the final product.

A nod to the milkman 

The result?

A consumer-friendly container with enough durability to stand up to the rigors of daily life. As testing proceeds, customers will become partners in the program, helping to gather data and provide important perspectives about the overall experience.

For the consumer goods companies, this is a bold journey into the unknown.

Or is it?

For those old enough to remember, there was a time when milk deliveries followed a similar model. The milkman would bring glass bottles filled with milk and collect the empty bottles left by the customer.

The bottles and the milk box were neither the property nor the burden of the customer. And honestly, it made sense.

This is the future of consumer goods – even if it takes a page out of our seemingly distant past.

This article originally appeared on Longitudes, UPS’s thought leadership blog, and was republished with permission.