Common business wisdom says these days that if you make a green product, consumers will come—and buy. What’s not so clear is how shoppers will react if they perceive that the eco-friendly product in question is mediocre.
Take for instance a new, green innovation in food packaging: a revamp of the gallon milk jug. With rising costs fuel costs and some foreign countries squirreling away their resources, developing a bottle that is not only more eco-friendly, but that is cheaper to make, store, and transport makes sense. These new gallon jugs have been reshaped to make them easier to stack on a pallet, allowing more milk to be transported at a time. The pallets are also bound together with cardboard and plastic, both of which can be recycled after the milk arrives at its final destination. And with lowered transportation costs, the cost of goods falls as well, making a gallon of milk cheaper for shoppers. So far Wal-Mart and Costco have adopted the jug in what’s a rare win-win for retailers and consumers.
Well, not exactly. Some consumers are crying foul because the new milk jugs aren’t nearly as precise with their pour because they don’t have a traditional spout. “I hate it,” one Sam’s Club shopper tells the New York Times, along with a myriad of others who are literally crying over spilled milk. Despite that, Wal-Mart says they intend to continue their roll out of the jugs, although they’re easing consumers into it by giving demonstrations on how to use the jug (“pour slowly”).
From a fiscal and eco-perspective, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club have made a sound choice. But what about the angry customers? If you were in their position, do you go out on a [green] limb and embrace these new, cheaper packages or do you shy away from creating controversy and dissent among your consumer base?