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Diageo backs quest for new spirit

Drinks industry entrepreneurs have the chance to win up £200,000 to develop their own spirits brand thanks to a new scheme launched this week.

The programme is organised by Distill Ventures, a joint venture between Diageo, the world’s largest spirits producer, and London-based “innovation specialist” Independents United.

Up to five applicants will be selected in mid-November 2013 to take part in a six-month Seed Programme. Beginning in January 2014, this will feature masterclasses, business management programmes and mentoring.

The scheme aims to combine the funding and global spirits expertise offered by Diageo with Independents United’s experience in supporting start-up businesses.

Although the initiative is launching initially in the UK, Distill Ventures plans to roll out this scheme to European cities including Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid and Copenhagen.

In addition to the Seed Programme, Distill Ventures will introduce a Growth Programme in mid-2014. Open both the graduates of the first programme and fresh applicants, this will offer up to £2 million investment and support for existing brands looking to expand quickly.

Introducing the initiative as “the best possible accelerator for spirits start ups”, Shilen Patel, CEO of Distill Ventures said: “As entrepreneurs we know first hand just how hard it can be to start a new business. But we also know that investment and mentoring from the right people can drive success.”

Meanwhile Diageo’s chief marketing officer Syl Saller highlighted the “remarkable entrepreneurial spirit in the drinks sector right now” as he set out an ambition to “create the pioneering premium spirits brands of the future.

“We believe that this project will success because Distill Ventures has been developed after extensive collaboration with entrepreneurs throughout the industry to create something that really meets their needs.”

The move follows an earlier entrepreneurial scheme by Diageo called “Show Your Spirit”, which asked bartenders to come up with a new addition to its Reserve brands luxury spirits portfolio. The winning entry was a gin and sake blend called Jinzu, created by Dee Davies from Hyde & Co in Bristol.

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