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50 Innovative Companies to Watch 2019

An Interview with Ben Branson, Seedlip Inc Founder and CEO: ‘We have Globally Pioneered the Movement towards Non-Alcoholic Options by Creating the World’s First Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits’

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“We have brought non-alcoholic cocktails into the cocktail industry and conversation globally amongst the world’s most influential media, bartenders and chefs.”

Alcohol plays a dominating role in people’s social, political, and economic life — particularly for urban professionals, getting drinks can be as important a form of social currency as it was in college. But the odds are getting higher that liquor stores, bars, and restaurants will start to offer something different — non-alcoholic custom cocktails and brand-name beverages.

In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Seedlip Inc.

Seedlip produces non-alcoholic beverages. The company offers non-alcoholic spirits to hotels, restaurants, and retailers. Seedlip markets its products worldwide.

The company was incorporated in 2015 and is headquartered in The Chilterns, England with offices in Los Angeles & Sydney.

Ben Branson, Seedlip Inc Founder/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

How successful was your first project roll? Share the experience.

Whilst looking into different herbs to grow at home I came across a book online written in 1651 called ‘The Art of Distillation’. It documented distilled herbal remedies that were non-alcoholic. Out of curiosity I bought a little copper still and began experimenting in my kitchen with herbs from garden.

It was only when I began to understand that the world and how we’re drinking is changing that the mission to solve the dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking, invent the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits and continue my family’s 300 year legacy of working with the land came together as a business idea.

In November 2015, I hand-bottled the first 1000x bottles and had no idea what would happen. They sold out in iconic luxury store Selfridges in just three weeks, the next batch in less than three days and the third 1000x in less than an hour online. It was madness as I was on my own and struggling to keep up. In the last three years, we have grown tremendously from London to 26 international cities working with many of the world’s best bars, restaurants, hotels, and retailers. Surreal!

What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years?

Seedlip is the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit and as you can imagine when creating something no one has ever done, we have had a full spectrum of responses!

We typically get two kinds of reactions: “Why has no-one done this before, this is amazing, thank you!” to the other end of the spectrum “What is the point?!”

The majority I’m glad to say is very positive! In just three years, we have created a new category and are very grateful to be working in over 25x of the most dynamic cities from Berlin to Sydney and available in over 7500x of the best bars, restaurants, hotels, and retailers in the world including over 250x Michelin* restaurants and eight of the top 10 best cocktail bars in the world.

What challenges did you face in your initial years?

Seedlip is the first of its kind and that presented three key challenges:

The Process: Developing a bespoke maceration, distillation, and filtration process for each individual plant we work with took two years of trial, error, research, and testing. We have created totally unique spirits that are full of flavour, sit on the back bar and are sugar-free, sweetener-free, allergen, and calorie-free.

The Time: It takes six weeks to make a bottle of Seedlip once all the ingredients have been sourced and quality checked [the peas we grow on my farm that we then handpick to distil for Seedlip Garden take on average another 108 days on top].

Nature: Our spirits are only as good as our produce, so with different weather conditions, harvest yields and year-to-year variations in flavour, coordinating the 18x ingredients we work with is certainly a challenge but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

“Earning trust and respect of consumers all around the world is through consistent focus on delivering high quality in all of our actions.” How do you interpret this statement?

I totally agree with it. At Seedlip we aim to do things politely, properly and at pace with the highest execution standards in every single detail. I am very proud of my team who are committed to not letting our brand and mission down and who above and beyond to sweat all the little details.

A company to be one the most innovative, its employees must think like innovators, employees need to feel they have a decent outlet for sharing their observations and ideas, is this true with your company?

This is absolutely true of our team. We hire extraordinary people who all share some common attributes: resilience, drive and a willingness to take responsibility and initiative. This means speaking up. It means being involved and it means the team are given the freedom, trust and opportunity to really own their area of the business.

How often do you innovate?

Since we launched in late 2015 we are continuously showcasing what’s possible with our brand and category, leading rather than reacting – here are some highlights.

  • Launched 3x products to 25x countries,
  • Won numerous awards including two gold medals at the world’s most prestigious garden design show, Chelsea Flower Show,
  • Launched a limited edition “world-first dark distilled non-alcoholic spirit called Harvest 36”,
  • Launch a cocktail book published by Penguin Books,
  • Opened a three-month-long shop in Mayfair London,
  • Launched a whole new business and brand called Æcorn Aperitifs, the world’s first premium range of non-alcoholic aperitifs.

What are the factors that make your brand most innovative and why?

There are several factors that make Seedlip stand out from the competition:

Seedlip has globally pioneered the movement towards non-alcoholic options by creating the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits.

Moreover, the company has brought non-alcoholic cocktails into the cocktail industry and conversation globally amongst the world’s most influential media, bartenders, and chefs.

Customer service varies, but companies can still be successful. How do you maintain your customers’ trust and loyalty?

Our customers are key to our business and we take customer service very seriously at every touchpoint. Be that answering queries on email, keeping our customers up-to-date with what’s happening, responding to social media queries, and having thorough quality control procedures in place for our products right through to saying please and thank you, dressing appropriately. All the detail matters!

Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

We are committed to being as sustainable as possible throughout all aspects of our business. Seedlip is not perfect but our progress in continually improving our sourcing; our materials and footprint are, to us, part of being a responsible business.

We have a number of exciting projects underway in this space that we’re really excited about implementing over the coming years.

“We have created a new category and are very grateful to be working in over 25x of the most dynamic cities from Berlin to Sydney and available in over 7500x of the best bars, restaurants, hotels, and retailers in the world including over 250x Michelin* restaurants and eight of the top 10 best cocktail bars in the world.”