The Whisky industry has a major packaging addiction
♻️ Rant Alert! 🚨
The Whisky industry has a packaging addiction that isn't going to be solved unless people on both sides of the equation re-appraise their definitions of luxury.
Whisky is obviously about so much more than just the liquid, but we need to get the balance right between the experience of the product and the impact on the planet.
> Heavy glass bottles feel great in the hand, but unnecessary weight carries a carbon footprint penalty.
> Elaborate foiling techniques (everywhere in whisky) mean labels and the boxes they adorn can't be easily recycled by ordinary folk. Few people know this, which seems to mean it is still fair play by most whisky producers. With a few notable exceptions, shiny = shitty for the planet.
> Outer boxes and tubes add 'gifting appeal' - but are obviously totally unnecessary, and the amount of gimmickry and layers of mixed material packaging rife in 'luxury' whiskies is nothing short of absurd. Packaging to protect the packaging, within an extra layer of packaging to ensure the second layer of packaging doesn't get damaged, sometimes shipped in a whole other layer of packaging just should not be a thing. Ever!
Whisky was once a humble drink and is now a luxury commodity, but at every level, the value should still lie in the liquid and the experience it provides. Our packaging decisions were driven, in part, by a realisation that if you're into drinking good whisky, and also want to make low-impact choices... you have very, very few options. We refused to accept that good whisky means bad for the planet at a packaging level.
We're still starting out and we are not claiming to be perfect - but our journey started from a place of not accepting the industry standard avoidance of solutions to some obvious problems.
There are, thankfully, some awesome companies finding new ways to do things like @viscose who make our wood pulp-based tamper seal closures. You need to be fully committed to the value of the solution to overcome the barriers like the fact you need to change a process to apply them. As a new to world startup we were. But may solutions are not being adopted because they don't fit with the current processes of big players. This is why we hear about twenty year adoption timelines.
Meanwhile, We see every major whisky company trotting out big budget press releases tinged with eco creds and sustainability promises at a corporate level - yet adding to the mountains of single-use packaging with their new releases the very next day. It's time we called that out.
Some Good News
At one end of the specturm you've got the likes of the admirable and brillaint Nc'Nean flying the flag and making meaningful change by creating conversation. At the other you've got Diageo's 'project oxygen' removing all gift boxes from whiskies below Johnnie Walker Black label Standard. That's 183 million cardboard gift boxes used for its premium Scotch portfolio.
But, Nc'nean is literally a drop in an ocean - and what's driving Diageo's decision not to remove these boxes from EVERYTHING is possibly a widely held industry opinion that consumers 'simply won't accept it'. We're stuck in a game of chicken and egg until consumers signal en masse that they're ready to accept luxury products in less, or better packaging.
What does get to us however, is the double standards in play. Press releases like this and this clock up millions of views and are great signaling exersizes at a corporate level - These stories positioned Johnnie Walker / Glenfiddich as a pioneers in the fight for the planet. To our knowledge we are yet to see the paper bottle in the real world, but do most of the SKUs that comprise JW's 21 Million 9/l case (that's 252 million bottles) volume number for FY2021 contain plastics, foil etc? Yes. Do they promise to make everything 100% recyclable by 2030? Also yes - so, there is hope. We hope.
Some good links for more info: