When Seedlip launched in 2015, 99.9% of bars, restaurants, hotels, and retailers were not considering those not drinking alcohol. There were only a handful of options and the non-alcoholic category was in its infancy. Fast forward to today, there are supermarket shelves dedicated to no & low alcohol options, bar menus dedicated to it with hundreds of products to choose from, and a dynamic ecosystem of venues, communities, literature, retailers, producers, investors, and societal groundswell driving at changing what we drink.
We spoke to Ben Branson, Founder of Seedlip, who shared with us how he built the company which is now leading the non-alcoholic spirits category.
What inspired the birth of Seedlip?
I’m from a family with a strong background in farming and design, and I have a love for the natural world. In 2013, whilst researching interesting herbs I could grow at home, I came across a book written in 1651 called The Art of Distillation, which documented both alcoholic & non-alcoholic distilled herbal remedies. Out of curiosity, I began experimenting in my kitchen with homegrown herbs and a copper still.
A few months later, I was out for dinner in London and not drinking, and asked the waitress what non-alcoholic options they had, and she looked at me rather sadly. I was given a pink, sugary drink that neither fit the moment nor paired with the meal. I began to wonder if there was a way I could combine everything I loved and continue my family’s legacy of working with nature whilst creating a truly sophisticated alternative option to alcohol.
Ben Branson, Founder, Seedlip
According to you, how is Seedlip different from other non-alcoholic beverage brands out there?
Seedlip is the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, made by way of bespoke sourcing, distillation, and blending process for each individual botanical within the liquid. Not only is Seedlip non-alcoholic, but it has no sugar, sweeteners, or calories. It’s designed for the cocktail experience–a clear, shelf-stable liquid, non-requiring of refrigeration that’s meant to sit beautifully on a bar.
Seedlip is not trying to mimic the flavors of an existing drink. It’s entirely novel, which is intentional, but also a challenge in terms of education, as there’s no basis for comparison. Seedlip only launched in 2015, and we’ve grown to 35+ markets worldwide. Yet, in comparison to other drink categories, we’re only just at the beginning.
What kind of response have you received from consumers over the years?
The response to Seedlip is generally either: Why has no one done this before; it’s amazing. Or, what’s the point; I don’t get it.
Although there is a significantly growing acceptance that better non-alcoholic options need to be considered and offered, it is still very much the early days. Globally, we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in the role drinks play in peoples’ lives with several bigger cultural forces at work. This means the timing and need for quality, adult non-alcoholic options have never been more relevant. I think people are also becoming increasingly mindful of their health (now more than ever), the origins of their food and drink, and the influence social-media-led lives have on consumption.
The Seedlip Trio
Who do you look up to in the drinks industry?
Lars Williams from Empirical Spirits. Incredibly inspiring from a food science & flavor perspective. I love what the team there is doing!
What's your favorite way of drinking Seedlip spirits?
So, bearing in mind, Seedlip is made to be mixed. I really like our simple Seedlip Ginger Highball–2 oz of any expression, over ice, topped with a premium ginger ale, like Fever-Tree. I also enjoy a Spice & Tonic. But, our team has developed so many incredible cocktail recipes, too.
What is your favorite Seedlip cocktail?
Once you’ve gotten a taste for each expression, you can get creative making slightly more complex cocktails. We have tons of recipes for reference on our website, though always encourage creativity and experimentation. Let flavor be the guide: Garden 108 is fresh, savory, and herbal; Spice 94 is warm, spicy, and aromatic; Grove 42 is bright and citrusy. Our Grove Margarita quickly became one of our most popular recipes once released last spring. It’s delicious.
What support programs have you designed for off and on-premise accounts?
Given how new the non-alc category still is, education & trial are fundamental. We work really hard to offer a full training & demo package with all of our customers to ensure consumers get the best first experience of this movement and that accounts feel confident & clear to put together demo programs or non-alc beverage programs.
How have you created space for a non-alcoholic beverage in an alcoholic beverage market?
Creating Seedlip was the perfect opportunity to bring together my mothers’ 300-year farming heritage and my fathers’ design expertise to create an adult alternative to sugary, fruity ‘mocktails’.
Traditionally, if you’re not drinking alcohol, you get a sweet, sugary drink full of fruit juice or syrups and artificial ingredients. It was imperative to bring full flavor to a base spirit using natural, plant ingredients, without having to start with or add sugar. Seedlip is the solution to that.
What new trends do you see in the beverage industry?
Globally, we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in the role drinks play in peoples’ lives with several bigger cultural forces at work. This means the timing and need for quality, adult non-alcoholic options have never been more relevant. People are becoming increasingly mindful of their health (now more than ever), the origins of their food and drink, and the influence social-media-led lives have on consumption. We very much see this as a growing movement, not a trend or fad.
Bartenders using Seedlip spirits
What can we expect to see from Seedlip in the near future?
In the States, we’re really excited to soon be launching our sister brand, AEcorn. Founded by Claire Warner, the Bitter expression is layered with flavor and makes the most delicious spritz.
Seedlip is now available at bars and restaurants in San Francisco: