Describing itself as “the world’s first independent drinks accelerator”, Distill Ventures (Diageo) scouts novel newcomer spirits brands looking to scale up and become the sought-after brands of tomorrow. On that journey, packaging plays an important role in attracting the consumer, particularly in the emerging premium no-and-low alcohol segment, where Distill is an active player.
Founded in 2013, Distill Ventures targets entrepreneurs through a combination of cash investment, mentoring and access to experts. While global drinks giant Diageo is the sole investor and provides funding, the company independently finds businesses to support, from pre-launch to brands requiring expansion capital.
To date, Distill has invested in more than 15 different brands including German aperitif Belsazar; the UK’s Seedlip (which claims to be the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic brand); Stauning, a new whisky from Denmark; Starward, an Australian whisky matured in wine barrels; and Westward, a grain-to-glass American single malt.
With demand for sophisticated no-and-low alcoholic drinks on the rise, Distill Ventures notes that packaging plays a central role in convincing consumers to make the switch from alcoholic beverages. “Packaging is becoming increasingly important as drinks are put on display—both at home and on back-bars. They need to be designed so that consumers and bar managers are proud to show them off,” Shilen Patel, Co-founder and non-alcoholic lead at Distill Ventures, tells Luxe Packaging Insight.
Indeed, no/low products need to ‘shout’ louder because, as newcomers, they have to tell a convincing story: “The packaging needs to be clear and differentiated in order to stand out,” affirms Patel. For the no/low category specifically, there are other factors that should be taken into account: “Consumers should be educated as to what the liquids are (made of), how they should be drunk and what they should expect from them with regards to flavour. They also need to be clear about their status—is it a no-alcohol or low-alcohol product?”
Patel believes that the pack should also convey quality credentials. “This includes how the product has been made, the ingredients, and how this is an authentic replacement for an alcoholic drink,” he argues.
However, he isn’t necessarily advocating that premium no/low drinks should mimic alcoholic drinks’ aesthetics. “It may be too early to say (that) as the category is still nascent and developing. Consumers with different motivations and needs are exploring how these drinks might work with their lifestyles,” he remarks. “Markets across the globe also have numerous drinking cultures and the category is therefore at different stages of development depending on the country. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”