Ex-Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews wins US$2 million investment for low ABV ‘spirit’

Former Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews, the founder of low ABV spirit brand The Clean Liquor Co, has raised US$2 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Spencer Matthews attending his launch of The Clean Liquor Company, at The Trading House in London last year.

Clean Liquor was selected from a group of 50 international producers to get backing from the US investment firm.

Nicole Quinn, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, which has stakes in social network Snapchat and Goop, said the firm seeks out businesses that are “not just disruptive but rather represent a generational behavioural shift.”

“We want to build a business for the long run. And if that business is a celebrity’s business, the most important thing is true authenticity.”

A statement from Clean Liquor, which specialises in low ABV drinks, said the funding will help the brand expand and become “the next Goop of the no/low alcohol category.”

Matthews launched Clean Liquor Co. last November at a party in the City of London, where guests including sister in-law Pippa Matthews (ne Middleton), and former Made in Chelsea co-stars Hugo Taylor and Jamie Laing were served cocktails made with CleanGin, a “predominantly juniper” flavoured ‘spirit’ bottled at 1.2% ABV. Clean Liquor works with UK-based gin producer Union Distillers to create the ABV-free spirit, which chairman Justin Hicklin told db goes through “four different distillation processes” before it is completed.

It is the first product in the portfolio to hit the market, and has already been listed in around 469 Sainsbury’s stores nationwide, with an RRP of £24.99.

Matthews said his brand was launched “out of a passion to make no and low alcohol products positive. Rather than non-alcoholic, non-flavour, non-fun, we wanted to create something that answered the demand for quality and flavour but without the negative effects of alcohol.”

Sales of non-alcoholic spirit-like have soared both in volume and value in the UK, driven by the launch of Seedlip in 2015. William Grant & Sons launched its first ultra-low alcohol spirit, bottled at 0.5% ABV, this year, while Pernod Ricard also unveiled its own non-alcoholic dark spirit this year after it brought ABV-free spirit Ceder’s to the UK in 2018.

Distill Ventures, an accelerator for small brands backed by Diageo, acquired a minority stake in Seedlip in June 2016, giving the spirits giant a share in the company. Diageo upped its investment in Seedlip to a majority in August. Today the brand is served in over 6,000 cocktail bars, hotels, restaurants and retailers in 25 countries, is also became the official partner of the Michelin Guide in the US.

The day after the CleanLiquor launch party, Matthews told db he “took inspiration from Seedlip” when he started developing his own label.

The next product in the pipeline is based on rum, according to Clean Liquor, which is receiving finishing touches from the distillery team.

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