Johnnie Walker Whisky Will Come in Paper Bottles Next Year

Diageo is launching a sustainable packaging company

johnny walker paper bottle
Johnnie Walker whisky will be the first spirit sold in a paper-based bottle. Johnnie Walker

As consumer packaged goods companies look to present their products in ways that demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, many brands are targeting the packaging itself—either by cutting down on plastic, increasing recycled materials within packaging or creating compostable containers.

To keep up with this trend, alcohol conglomerate Diageo announced today a new partnership with venture management company Pilot Lite to create sustainable packaging for its boozy wares. The new company, Pulpex Limited, will specialize in plastic-free bottles made from sustainably sourced pulp.

Johnnie Walker whisky is the first product that Diageo will sell in the new paper-based bottles, set to hit shelves sometime next year. Pulpex Limited has also created a partner consortium of leading fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) in non-competing categories, allowing the technology to be used more broadly. Unilever and PepsiCo are both part of the consortium, and more partners will be announced later this year. The partners are also expected to launch products in their own branded paper-based bottles sometime in 2021.

“We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging, and this bottle has the potential to be truly groundbreaking,” said Diageo chief sustainability officer Ewan Andrew in a statement. “It feels fitting that we should launch it with Johnnie Walker, a brand that has often led the way in innovation throughout its 200 years existence.”

Pulpex Limited’s paper-based bottles will allow FMCGs to present their products in more sustainable packaging without compromising on quality or food safety standards. The packaging is expected to be fully recyclable in standard waste streams.

“We’re thrilled to be working with global brand leaders in this consortium,” said Pilot Lite director Sandy Westwater in a statement. “By working together, we can use the collective power of the brands to help minimize the environmental footprint of packaging by changing manufacturing and consumer behaviors.”

The sustainable packaging news comes just two weeks after Diageo announced its first carbon neutral distillery, which will distill Bulleit Bourbon in Lebanon, Ky. The 72,000-square-foot facility will be powered by 100% renewable energy, and will be able to bottle up to 10 million gallons of bourbon per year.

@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.