It was being given "a sickly sweet pink mocktail" when out for dinner one evening that inspired entrepreneur Ben Branson to create something different.
Coming from a farming background, he’d been experimenting with distilling herbal remedies in his kitchen, and spotted a gap in the market for a grown-up non-alcoholic option, something more sophisticated than the fruit juices and fizzy drinks that are routinely served in bars and restaurants.
Two years of distillation adventures later, Seedlip Spice 94 made its debut in Selfridges in late 2015. The first thousand-bottle run sold out in three weeks, the next in three days, and the one after that in just 30 minutes.
Today, Seedlip (now part-owned by Diageo) is stocked by more than 250 restaurants around the world and has received listings in Marks & Spencer and Whole Foods in the US. Branson has also opened Seedlip’s first international office in Los Angeles, the home of wellness.
The company makes three different blends – Spice 94, Garden 108 and Grove 42 – that can be drunk with tonic or mixed to create non-alcoholic cocktails (a book of recipes is available for £14.99).
Seedlip’s success has coincided with a boom in the wellness economy, which according to the Global Wellness Institute can be valued at a very healthy $4.2tn globally. In Western markets people are drinking less, and alcohol is less attractive to younger people. ONS statistics from 2017 suggest that more than a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds are teetotal. Sales of non-alcoholic beer rose 58 per cent in the last year in the UK.
However, while Brits may be drinking less, the rest of the world still has a thirst for our alcoholic products. Exports of British gin rose by 19 per cent in the first half of 2018, to reach a record-breaking £279m, and Scotch whisky exports also hit a record high last year, with overall global sales reaching £4.26bn and more than 1.2 billion bottles being shipped. Whisky now accounts for more than 20 per cent of all UK food and drink exports. We’ll raise a glass – alcohol-free or not – to that.
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