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Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit launched in US

Seedlip Drinks, the Diageo-backed non-alcoholic distilled spirit, is preparing to launch in the US, continuing its remarkable growth since launching onto the UK market 12 months ago.

Seedlip launched in 2015

Capitalising on growing demand for non-alcohol alternatives by health-conscious millennials, the brand was founded by entrepreneur Ben Branson to solve the dilemma of “what-to-drink-when-you’re-not-drinking”.

At the time of its launch it was the “world’s first” distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand. Having quadrupled its production in its first month on the market, the company attracted investment from Distill Ventures – a company that is backed by Diageo and helps fund innovation within the spirits world. It was the first time that Distell had ever chosen to invest in a non-alcoholic product.

Seedlip is already on sale in Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, cocktail bars including Dandelyan and The American Bar at The Savoy and over 35x Michelin Starred restaurants including The Ledbury and The Fat Duck.

Now, working with specialist US importers Mikuni Wild Harvest, Branson is taking his concept to the US.

“The last 12 months have been a whirlwind and bringing Seedlip to the USA this December is a huge milestone for us as a small company,” said Branson. “With our ambassadors in California and the experts at Mikuni Wild Harvest we are excited to bring Seedlip to more customers at the very forefront of the food and drinks industry.”

The non-alcoholic spirit is available in two flavour variants. Seedlip Spice 94 is a blend of individual copper-pot distillates including two barks, two spices and two citrus peels. Seedlip Garden 108 meanwhile is a “green and floral blend” of individual copper-pot distillates including handpicked peas and hay from Branson’s family farm and traditional herbs including spearmint, rosemary & thyme. Both are intended to be served long with tonic water.

Marked trend

While non-alcohol cocktails are nothing new, Seedlip was the first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, with its success signalling growing demand from a demographic looking for alternatives to alcohol.

Typically, this trend is being driven by increasingly health-conscious younger adults, who are actively choosing to shun alcohol with many going teetotal. In a 2015 study, it was estimated that one in five adults in the UK now identify as teetotal. According to the Office of National Statistics, 21% of adults are now teetotal, compared with 19% in 2005.

This change, the ONS says, is being driven largely by young adults who are shunning alcohol, with the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds reporting that they do not drink alcohol at all has increasing by more than 40% between 2005 and 2013.

Responding to this trend in consumption Professor David Nutt – the UK’s former chief drugs officer and a professor at London’s Imperial College – is already working on a synthetic alcohol which he believes could completely replace alcohol by 2015. 

Nutt has already patented around 90 compounds used to produce Alcosynth – a synthetic alcohol that mimics the positive effects of alcohol, but reduces the risk of a hangover.

Changing perceptions

While Branson’s invention, a distilled, botanical-based, ‘spirit’, is designed to mimic the taste of alcohol, Nutt’s Alcosynth is designed to mimic the effects of alcohol, but without the addictive or negative effects on the liver for example.

The emergence of both signals a turn in perceptions of alcohol, particulalry among young adults, driven by more health-conscious consumers. While a trend for non-alcoholic beverages may initially have been dismissed as a passing fad it is proving to have staying power, with the importance of this sector growing.

At a recent Westminster Social Policy Forum on alcohol in London, key members of the drinks trade stressed that alcoholic drinks producers needed to pay attention to shifting perceptions of alcohol, with consumption continuing to fall, highlighting lower strength products as offering opportunities for growth.

In the UK, alcohol consumption has fallen by nearly 20% over the past 10 years, with Brits now drinking the same amount of alcohol per capita as we were in 1979. Increasingly, more 16 to 24 year olds are choosing not to drink at all, with this age range driving a trend for teetotalism, according to think tank Demos, while binge drinking has declined by 19% since 2007.

Speaking at the forum, David Wilson, director of public affairs at the British Beer and Pub Association, acknowledged that attitudes toward alcohol were changing and that the industry needed to respond.

“I think we have moved from a position where the image of alcohol in this country is like this [points to drunk woman passed out on bench] to one where people are enjoying alcohol in a pub. More food is served in pubs now than ever. It’s changing the way we consume beer and changing the way we drink”, adding: “Public opinion and what people think about alcohol, for young people, is very different, and it’s being driven by awareness of public health and their own bodies.”

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