Waitrose has ditched its environmentally friendly milk pouch and jug concept, claiming poor demand was leading to high wastage.

The supermarket phased out both the Calon Wen branded milk and its own-label milk pouches last month. To compensate, it has increased the recycled content in its standard plastic milk bottles.

"It was a hard decision to take, but we believe it's totally unacceptable for food to be wasted in this way, so instead we will continue our work to minimise packaging in other ways," said a spokeswoman.

Over the two and a half years in which Calon Wen had been supplying Waitrose, sales volumes had been steady, said chairman Richard Tomlinson. However, consumers needed further education on how to use the format. "This experience has taught us that the multiple retail environment may not be the best fit for the Eco Pak, as the concept needs to be explained to the end consumers." 

"While points of sale and the like do explain and promote the product to a certain degree, there is nothing better than having the one-to-one contact."

Calon Wen had seen strong sales growth through health food shops and box schemes, where there was more personal contact, added Tomlinson. Commercial settings such as cafés and restaurants also appreciated the lower wastage concept, he added.

A Wrap spokeswoman said she still believed the format had a long-term future and that shoppers would buy into the concept of cheaper, lower-packaging milk. But she stressed: "What is important in any milk container, whether it's a glass bottle, a pouch or a plastic bottle, is increasing recycled content and making it easier to recycle."

Waitrose's decision comes in stark contrast to Sainsbury's, which last month rolled out its milk bags nationwide following a successful trial in 50 stores. Dairy Crest has also redeveloped its Jugit milk jugs for the retailer to coincide with the rollout.