Vol. 1 No. 1 (2018)

The Tyranny of the Bottle: Vitasoy and the Cultural Politics of Packaging

Jia-Chen Fu
Emory University

Published 2018-08-30


  • soymilk,
  • Hong Kong,
  • milk,
  • packaging,
  • performativity

How to Cite

Fu, J.-C. (2018). The Tyranny of the Bottle: Vitasoy and the Cultural Politics of Packaging. Worldwide Waste, 1(1), 4. https://doi.org/10.5334/wwwj.11


This article seeks to illuminate the field of social and material relations that generated and were generated by the Vitasoy milk bottle. When Vitasoy began making and selling soybean milk in 1940, the materiality of the milk bottle underscored and participated in assembling producers and consumers in both productive and problematic ways. The milk bottle was a material instantiation of a pattern of desires closely associated with global modernity that gestured beyond the geographical specificity of Hong Kong to an idealized community of rational, health-minded milk drinkers. As a marker of hygienic modernity and a badge of humanitarian relief and nutritional activism, the milk bottle conveyed seemingly universal ideals about health and fitness and materially affirmed the new idea that soybean milk was a dairy substitute. How the Vitasoy milk bottle could perform such functions requires disentangling the multiple lines of influence, local and global, that helped make the milk bottle meaningful.