Dairy Milks Old-Fashioned Value of Glass in Serving Loyal Customers
More than 100 dairies in Southern California once did, selling their milk in glass bottles during the 1950s. Now, that distinction belongs only to Broguiere’s Farm Fresh Dairy in Montebello.
The dairy, tucked on a quiet street near the edge of town, has been around since 1920 and today serves a niche clientele that appreciates a sip of nostalgia.
Customers have a hard time explaining why they prefer milk bottles instead of plastic and carton packaging. Some say it makes the milk colder, fresher, more natural, maybe a little thicker. Or just plain better-tasting.
Whatever it is, longtime customers return regularly to the dairy’s drive-thru milk stand, which resembles a giant cow with its splotches of black and white paint.
“I think it’s because milk tastes better when it’s cold,” says Gina Ybarbo, who equates the glass bottles with colder milk.
Broguiere Farm Once Had 150 Milking Cows
The dairy’s owner and president, Ray Broguiere Jr., says milk in glass tastes better because it does not pick up additional flavors from its package.
Donna Berry, consultant and editor for Dairy and Food Communications, says perception is the key to glass bottles.
“Glass conveys naturalness, an old-fashioned, back-on-the-farm freshness,” Berry says.
Once, the dairy had up to 150 cows producing milk on its 5-acre farm. Monique Broguiere, Ray’s daughter and the business manager, has fond stories of growing up around the Broguiere dairy farm before her grandfather had to do away with the herd to cut costs.
“I remember playing in the haystacks and making these tunnels we used to run through,” she says. “It makes me sad that all my daughters get to see is a business side of it all. All they see is a big metal machine.”
Ernest Broguiere, a French immigrant from the Alps, began the dairy by purchasing a lemon grove on Maple Avenue. When the lemon business failed to take off, he bought a Holstein cow and several hundred glass bottles and started selling milk. With his horse-drawn wagon painted with the dairy logo, he delivered milk to doorsteps, and his business expanded.
In 1965, Ernest’s son, Ray Broguiere Sr., took over the business and made a few changes, including the painful decision to get rid of the cows.
“He kept the bottles, thank God,” says Ray Broguiere Jr., who took over for his father in 1975 and plans to pass on the business to his son, Chris.
In contrast to the old-fashioned style of the bottles, the milk processing plant today operates with state-of-the-art stainless steel equipment.
Straight from cows on a San Jacinto farm, the milk arrives raw in a tanker that backs into the dairy. Four times a week the milk is pasteurized to kill bacteria, homogenized to make it smooth, cooled and then pumped into some 6,000 clear glass bottles.
‘It’s High-End Milk, Definitely a Specialty’
A few bottle designs are new, such as the latest one with a U.S. flag and the patriotic message “Long May It Wave.” Others, such as the Happy Thanksgiving 1999 bottle, have been around the conveyor belt a few times.
All the bottles carry the dairy’s friendly logo of a cartoon cow saying, “Milk so Fresh, the Cow Doesn’t Know it’s Missing.”
The creamy milk-filled bottles are packed in crates and sold at the drive-thru or shipped to Southern California specialty grocery stores, such as Gelson’s, Pavilions and Mayfair, and high-end Ralphs, Vons and Albertson’s supermarkets.
“They have loyal customers. I hear from them when I run out, especially the low-fat or nonfat milk,” says Bob Peterson, manager of a Ralphs store in Marina del Rey. “It’s high-end milk, definitely a specialty.”
Broguiere says the Montebello dairy also processes organic milk in glass bottles for the Whole Foods chain in Southern California, which sells the product under its private label. Another dairy in Northern California also uses glass bottles.
At the Montebello dairy, customers pay 94 cents, plus a dollar deposit, for a quart of milk and $1.59, plus deposit, for a half gallon. For chocolate milk, they shell out $4.19 for half a gallon plus the deposit. Most customers return empty bottles for credit toward new purchases.
Some Dairy Customers Collect Its Glass Bottles
Returnable glass bottles, introduced in 1884, began giving way to disposable paper milk cartons in 1932. Home refrigeration spurred the package change by creating a demand for larger cartons, which consumers could buy fewer times a week at the supermarket. Soon daily doorstep deliveries all but disappeared.
In Montebello, visiting the dairy a few times a week is what makes some customers feel they are getting a fresher deal.
The dairy stand offers everything else that goes with milk, from Lucky Charms and doughnuts to sliced bread, chorizo and brown eggs. At the drive-thru, it also offers Broguiere’s milk in plastic packaging. But the milk it distributes to other stores is sold only in glass.
Some customers collect the milk bottles, traveling to Montebello from all over California for the themed glass containers.
“They will drive all the way from San Jose as soon as they know there’s a new bottle in,” says Monique Broguiere. “Especially the Christmas bottle.”