A bottle crate is a vessel used to transport beverage containers from bottling plants to stores. While the classic milk crate has long served as one of the most popular ways to transport bottled beverages, modern manufacturers rely on many bottle crate designs to meet their needs. Some are designed to hold just a few units at a time, while others can hold dozens of bottles. A bottle crate may feature individual openings to separate each bottle from others, or may simply feature an open design to hold bottles closely together. Manufacturers often collect and reuse these crates for years to help keep shipping costs low.
The concept of a bottle crate likely dates back to the milk delivery man. Before modern refrigeration and grocers became widespread, dairies delivered milk to customers at home each day. These original crates were made of wood, and contained just a few reusable glass bottles. As manufacturers began to introduce new bottled beverages, like soda or water, they turned to more durable metal crates.
Metal crates were designed to hold larger quantities of bottles than traditional wooden milk crates. They often consisted of an open-wire design with a handle, though some featured solid walls made from sheet metal. Over time, companies switched to plastic bottle crate designs to cut weight and maximize the life of the crate.
Today, most bottle crates are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This hard, durable plastic can be used for decades, and is highly resistant to damage caused by moisture or impact. They are also surprisingly strong, and are often designed to carry many bottles in a single load.
For glass containers, manufacturers often include some form of separation within the bottle crate to keep the bottles from crashing into one another. This means that the crate can only hold bottles of one size. Removable inserts can remedy this problem, and may be removed when plastic bottles are used in place of glass.
While manufacturers often do their best to reclaim and reuse these crates, they typically face losses due to theft from both retailers and consumers. Store owners or shoppers may take these crates to store items at home or in the shop, costing manufacturers a large amount of money each year. Another trend is to repurpose these crates in furniture, including simple stools and tables, as well as designer pieces.