I first encountered boxed milk 15+ years ago in Africa, then boxed wine and a few boxed veggies when we were in Mexico. And most of us have seen juice boxes for kids.
Many foods that used to be canned or bottled are now coming in shelf-stable boxes:
- Stock (although I prefer the concentrated stock for the boat — read more about it)
- Pasta sauce
- Tomatoes and other vegetables
and probably more that I just haven’t noticed.
And I’ve gotten a couple of questions about whether these are good on a boat and I’ve seen it discussed on two different forums that I’m on. In general, I like them but there are a few things to aware of.
Things I like about Tetra boxes instead of cans:
- Far less wasted space. The boxes fit tightly together, unlike stacking a bunch of round cans.
- Because they fit together so nicely, there’s a lot less chafe over time. And that means they don’t develop pin holes.
- Since they don’t roll, they’re quiet without having to stuff rags around them.
- No metallic taste in foods — some foods will pick up a taste from the cans.
- No worry about cans rusting and leaving marks. Cans can rust from salt air, and boxes won’t. But if immersed in water — say in a damp bilge — the boxes can come apart or mildew.
- Easier to flatten to put in trash than a can.
- No need for a can opener.
- If they have a screw top, very easy to save part for later. NOTE: The flip tops, despite being marketed as “resealable” often don’t stay closed with the motion of the boat.
- For wine, no glass to break. And those with a spigot are secure against air intrusion.
- On the environmental side, since they fit tightly together and the packaging is lighter than a can, it takes less “power” to transport boxed goods to stores on a per-unit basis. They are also more efficient for stores to stock, taking less warehouse space and less shelf space.
Things I don’t like:
- There’s plastic (and foil) in them, so you can’t burn them. You have to treat them as plastic as far as trash goes. Generally can’t recycle. But many cans are plastic-lined and can’t be recycled for that reason.
- Have to keep them in a dry place — but I keep all foods in bins, so this isn’t a problem.
- The ones with a flip top won’t stay closed after opening due to the motion of the boat. You have to put any unused portion of the contents in another container, such as a Lock & Lock. But that’s true of a can as well.
The shelf life is fairly similar between cans or bottles and the Tetra packs, as long as they are in a dry place.
Overall, I prefer boxes to cans because of taking up less space and not rolling. There is the environmental aspect to consider, in that they have to be treated as plastic, but many “tin” cans are also plastic lined and pose a recycling problem. This concern is at least partially offset by less energy needed to transport and less warehouse and store space taken up.
Have you used any boxed food that used to come in cans or bottles? Which do you prefer?