Johnnie Walker culls almost all GTR secondary packs, saving 183m boxes

By Kristiane Sherry |

Johnnie Walker has been named as a core priority for Diageo Global Travel.

Most Johnnie Walker SKUs will be sold in GTR without secondary packaging.

In a significant sustainability drive, Diageo-owned blended Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker has removed almost all of its secondary packaging in the global travel retail channel, as part of its broader Society 2030 Spirit of Progress Plan.

Speaking yesterday [26 April] at the opening of its new Johnnie Walker shop-in-shop at Heathrow Terminal 2, Andrew Cowan, Managing Director at Diageo Global Travel, said the brand was one of the first to make the move. 

One of the walls in the new shop-in-shop features all the Johnnie Walker SKUs available in the channel at Heathrow. Every bottle, with the exception of Blue Label, Gold Label and Triple Cask, is now sold without the secondary pack. 

The development has already saved over 183 million cardboard boxes.

“We were the first to do it, which was a risk,” Cowan stated when asked about the consumer response to the lack of secondary packaging. 

“Normally you’d assess your competitive position, having a box versus not. But when we did it, anecdotally we had the sort of narrative, ‘why would you hide the liquid?’. And, ‘you throw the box away anyway’.”

He added that other brands were following Diageo GT’s lead in the removal of secondary packaging.

More sustainable packaging has also been a focus for single malt whisky brand Talisker in the GTR channel.

“We’ve partnered with a group called Parley with a travel-exclusive Talisker pack,” Cowan continued. “It is made with 100% recycled glass, so it’s not beautiful. It’s ugly is the new beautiful, right? It’s not see-through, it’s mottled, you can tell it’s recycled glass.”

Parley is a charitable group that clean the oceans, and money from the sale of each recycled glass Talisker pack is donated to support its work.

“We can commercialise activities that are also authentically green and not greenwashing,” said Cowan.

Designed for longevity

The permanent shop-in-shop has also been designed for longevity in an effort to be more sustainable, Faith Holland, Head of Customer Marketing, Diageo Global Travel, said.

Andrew Cowan speaking at the opening of the new Johnnie Walker Heathrow store.

“Rather than us activating something for a month, taking it out again, effectively often throwing it away, this is about investment in permanent space,” she explained.

Digital is a major enabler to that. The new shop-in-shop features a huge interactive screen that not only invites consumers in but educates them when they are there. 

“In the past, often every time we had a new campaign we have to create new assets, new collateral in order to bring that to life, whether it’s glorifiers, whether it’s point of sale.

“What we tried to bake bake into this space is digital, which gives us that that ability to be able to, at the flick of a switch, be able to change content, completely change the experience, but without creating all of the other things which will end up either needing to be recycled or treated as waste.

“I think the digital element has totally been part of the sustainability part.”

The Johnnie Walker shop-in-shop concept is set to be rolled out globally, with sustainability a large part of the operations considerations, she stated.

“It’s making sure that when we’re thinking about materials we’re sorting, not only see things that are recyclable now, but [we consider] what happens to end of life recyclability.” 

Holland continued: “As we roll this concept out as well, we really think about how we’re sourcing materials locally. So how are we really making sure that again, our carbon footprint of producing and installing these units is as small as it can be?”

Earlier this year, Diageo GT has welcomed shoppers into its new whisky-focused boutique at Hainan’s Haikou Duty Free International Shopping Complex, which also combines both digital and physical displays.


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