When Ben Thomson joined Seedlip in 2016 he was part of a tight-knit marketing “five man band” that was looking to pioneer the non-alcoholic space before many had even grasped the opportunity existed.
The Europe marketing director says he is still “amazed” by the business’s rapid growth trajectory, having scaled up to more than 80 employees working across three offices over the past three years alone.
Created in 2014 Seedlip claims to be the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit aimed at providing a sophisticated option for non-drinkers. In 2016 global drinks giant Diageo acquired a 20% stake in Seedlip through its Distill Ventures division, an incubator for emerging brands. Now in 2020 the brand feels ready for its first campaign.
Thomson is adamant that, as one of the first brands in this space, Seedlip is responsible for the popularity of non-alcoholic spirits in the UK, a category currently driving growth among the wider drinks sector. The UK no-alcohol and low-alcohol category is worth £60m a year, up 80% in 2019, according to figures from research company CGA.
“When we launched there was a very limited no and low category, so when you walked down the aisle of a Waitrose there wasn’t an area for high quality NA options,” says Thomson.
“[We] spearheaded and engaged with the grocers to provide a particular section in the spirits aisle which clearly showed the no and low brands that are available.”
Thomson feels “lucky” to have been able to build a marketing team spanning events, design, PR and creative and – despite being bought by Diageo – is adamant that Seedlip retains the small, agile culture it was built on.
The brand, for example, chooses to in-house marketing activity wherever possible. Thomson says this is in part to ensure “control” of marketing, but also to keep pace with the competition.
“We have a mantra of ‘doing things properly but at pace’. With a category that is growing so fast and with a number of other brands coming into the non-alcoholic spirits market, moving quickly is very important,” he explains.
This being said, Seedlip worked with creative agency And Rising for its first major campaign ‘Drink to the Future’, in a bid to build even faster momentum. Launched in January, across all major UK cities, the campaign is aimed at building awareness through digital and out-of-home.
Thomson says: “The category is growing, more and more brands are in our market and this is a really natural time for us to continue that pioneering leadership of the category.”
Crucially, Seedlip wants non-drinkers not to have to suffer with “poor sugary drinks options” and insists that alcohol-free doesn’t have to mean “Coke, lime sodas or mocktails”.
“This campaign aims to shows people you can have sophisticated moment and that ritual with a bartender to make you a beautiful drink with no hiding away and that if you’re not drinking you’re second best,” Thomson adds.
The brand has also launched a new range of Seedlip pre-mix tonics building on its bottled Nogroni cocktail released in October.
The new product development team work closely with marketing, sitting side by side in the office, to ensure that marketing is thought about at the inception of products.
NPD is one way that Seedlip hopes to take the lead and stay ahead of the category. However, despite the competition Thomson remains unfazed: “We’re just getting started”.