Can Johnnie Walker Make Paper Bottles Seem Sophisticated?

Top brands from across the entire food and beverage industry have been talking for years about the eventual need to move away from plastics and other environmentally harmful packaging waste. But it’s been a difficult road, with one challenge being that alternatives like paper-based packaging do not fit with the look and feel that these brands have worked hard to establish. However, with Diageo announcing the launch of paper bottles in 2021, perceptions of the material could soon change in a big way.

The project will start with the debut of a new bottle for Johnnie Walker, with Diageo calling it “the world’s first ever 100% plastic free paper-based spirits bottle, made entirely from sustainably sourced wood.” Diageo also owns leading alcohol brands such as Smirnoff and Guinness, meaning that a successful launch of the new Johnnie Walker Black Label paper bottle could lead to a whole new look for liquor store shelves.

The paper bottles will be produced by Pulpex Limited, a “new world-leading sustainable packaging technology company.” The company is working with a consortium of CPG leaders, including Diageo, Unilever, and PepsiCo. More companies are expected to join up later in the year, but these founding partners alone represent some of the heaviest hitters within the beverage world. With all of them set to introduce paper bottles, this might finally be the packaging material revolution that brands have long been promising.

The Johnnie Walker Black Label paper bottle is simple and chic, with an added texture that adds interest and helps it further stand out from competitor whiskey brands. We’ve seen some paper-based packaging in the wine category, but it’s still relatively niche even there – it can have an unfortunate association with boxed wine, which higher-end brands often want to avoid. However, Johnnie Walker is a premium alcohol brand, which could alter consumers’ opinions about the material and help other brands get over their fears.

With strong package design, paper bottles can look just as sophisticated and elegant as any other alternative. It’s lightweight (meaning that it costs a fraction of what brands pay to ship glass) and far more environmentally friendly than plastic. We’re looking forward to seeing what innovative and responsible packaging solutions come out of this Pulpex arrangement, and we are excited to see that leading brands are teaming up and working together for the greater good.  

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