Diageo has invested in Ritual Zero Proof, the first non-alcoholic spirit distilled in the US that echoes the taste and smell of spirits.
It follows Diageo announcing the acquisition of a significant majority shareholding in Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand, in August 2019.
The investment will help drive Ritual’s growth in the US, investing in its direct-to-consumer business and supporting its entry into retail. Alongside the cash investment, the Ritual founders will be able to access the support of Diageo’s Distill Ventures’ dedicated non-alcoholic drinks practice in developing the business over the coming years.
A labor of love founded in Chicago by three best friends, Marcus Sakey, GG Sakey and David Crooch, Ritual is designed to be a complex, flavourful and interesting alternative for people who are choosing not to drink.
Crafted for use in cocktails, Ritual can be swapped 1:1 with traditional spirits to make non-alcoholic versions of classic recipes. Ritual Zero Proof Gin Alternative mirrors the familiar flavor of gin with cucumber, juniper berries, mint and basil; the whiskey alternative has notes of oak and vanilla, the perfect match for orange and bitters.
According to a 2019 Distill Ventures data study, 58% of consumers are drinking more no-and low-abv drinks than last year, and 55% of the most influential bartenders in New York, Los Angeles and London believe the no-and low-alcohol trend will continue to grow within the next 12 months.
When it launched in September, the non-alcoholic spirit sold out of its projected six-month supply of product in just five weeks.
Consumers explicitly mention “non-alcoholic” 81% more often than they did one year ago according to Google Trends between May 2018 and 2019; Forbes declared non-alcoholic drinks the biggest trend in cocktails back in May, and Whole Foods dedicated one of its top 10 food trends for 2020 to alcohol-alternative drinks.
Founded in London in 2013, Distill Ventures is the world’s first independent drinks accelerator, with the mission to support entrepreneurs on their quest to establishing and scaling brands for future generations of consumers. The company is active in both traditional spirits categories and emerging drinks categories across Europe, Asia and North America.
Ritual is the first public non-alcoholic brand from the United States to join the company’s growing portfolio of international non-alcoholic brands, which make up 25% of the entire portfolio.
“This is a movement,” said Marcus Sakey, founding partner and chief brand officer of Ritual Zero Proof. “Just like almond milk and veggie burgers, spirit alternatives are changing the landscape. In 18 months, we predict non-alcoholic options will be on every menu and the shelves of every grocery store. Americans want more choice, and Ritual Zero Proof is all about more – more flavor, more moments, more life, that is. It’s the only American-made spirit alternative to echo the taste, smell and burn of a spirit – without the alcohol or calories.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Ritual Zero Proof and its seasoned team of drink entrepreneurs into the Distill Ventures portfolio as we build the future of non-alcoholic drinks, a category we have proudly supported since our investment in Seedlip back in 2015,” said Heidi Dillon Otto, Portfolio Director and Non-Alcoholic Lead, Distill Ventures North America.
“We look forward to working closely with Ritual’s team to unlock growth as, together, we shape the global non-alcoholic drinks landscape and continue to provide consumers with a broad array of choices when seeking out their drinks.”
“We are excited to support such an interesting new brand in the vibrant non-alcoholic spirit space,” said Eugene Khabensky, Ventures Director, Diageo. “We put the consumer at the heart of our business, and Ritual Zero Proof is a fantastic offering that provides consumers with more choices of the highest quality.”
As with all companies that work with Distill Ventures, the founders and current investors of Ritual will retain majority ownership, with Diageo holding a minority stake. They will continue to run the business independently as the company continues to expand.