Distill Ventures is an accelerator program that help fund early-stage companies within the spirits industry. The investment in Seedlip is the first time the program has backed a non-alcoholic product.
Launched last year by entrepreneur Ben Branson, Seedlip says it aims to solve the “what-to-drink-when-you’re-not-drinking” dilemma adults encounter at bars, restaurants, and hotels. The company took inspiration from the book The Art of Distillation published in London in 1651, which featured copper pot-distilled, non-alcoholic remedies.
“This really was pioneering work and partnering with Distill Ventures has helped me understand the industry, shape the product I dreamed of, and launch it in the right way.”
The investment means that Diageo now has a minority stake in Seedlip with Branson still serving as its majority shareholder, who will also continue to make marketing, sales, and new product development decisions for the company.
Diageo sees value in non-alcoholic drinks
Helen Michels, global innovation director of Diageo’s Futures Team, said the investment follows a larger trend of consumer interest in premium non-alcoholic beverages.
“We recognize the opportunity of non-alcoholic drinks,” Michels said in a statement. “We continue to explore and invest in this area and, in Seedlip, we have found a unique product which gives people a complex and refined drinking experience.”
Diageo already sells non-alcoholic brands such as Guinness Zero in Indonesia, Guinness Malta in Africa, and Orijin Zero in Nigeria.
‘Developing a new drinks category’
Seedlip’s first product, Spice 94 (launched in November 2015) is made from six individually distilled barks, spices, and citrus peel. Blended and bottled in England, Spice 94 is intended for adults looking for a non-alcoholic base for their cocktails, the company said.
“With Seedlip, we’re effectively developing a new drinks category, appealing to consumers looking for a refined alternative to alcohol,” Ben Branson said.Its second product, Garden 108, was released in May and is a blend of copper-pot distilled ingredients including handpicked peas and hay from Branson’s 300-year-old family farm, in addition to notes of spearmint, rosemary, and thyme, to create a “green and floral” flavor, Branson said.
To further appeal to its adult-aimed audience, both products are free from sugar, sweeteners, and artificial colors or sweeteners. Seedlip can be found in multiple high-end London restaurants, hotels, and specialty retailers including for an SRP of £27.99 ($36.47).
Seedlip is expected to go on sale in Western Europe and the US later this year.