Getting in the Spirit

Announcing Lightspeed’s investment in Clean Liquor, a low/no alcohol beverage company founded by British TV star Spencer Matthews.

“Who wants to drink anymore?” said Chelsea Handler. The comedian, whose autobiography is titled “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea?” shocked fans and followers when she renounced drinking this past month, saying “I don’t want to be fat and bloated when I’m older.”

Turns out Chelsea isn’t alone. Millennials and Gen Z consumers are increasingly mindful and health conscious, looking for ‘clean’ and ‘non-toxic’ ways of living. Younger people are taking control of their own lives earlier. ‘Clean living’ is a lifestyle trend that has taken hold over the last decade, extending across many verticals — e.g., beauty (Kosas, Beautycounter), food (Daily Harvest, Freshly), and household products (Seventh Generation, The Honest Company). Alcohol is inherently toxic, yet has seen limited innovation in the ‘clean’ space.

This year, our 2020 predictions post highlighted consumer health and wellness as a huge opportunity area for startups. In the US alone, alcohol is a ~$200B industry, and while the low/no segment is <1% of the market today, it’s projected to increase at a 38% CAGR through 2022. Beyond sheer market size, the low/no category presents new opportunities for brands to market and distribute directly to the consumer, as they don’t have to contend with alcohol advertising regulations and the three-tier system. We wrote in-depth about these opportunities in a blog post on the rise of alt-drinks in a ‘sober curious’ world — click here.

Traditional alcohol consumption is changing and as such there need to be legitimate options to replace or live alongside alcohol. We went deep in exploring opportunities in the alcohol category, as it’s a big industry with large legacy brands and limited innovation. We spoke with over fifty emerging brands and were blown away by the scale of the opportunity.

Of all the emerging brands we met, we were particularly struck by Spencer Matthews and the team at Clean Liquor, which is why we’re excited to announce our investment today. The first thing that stood-out about Clean Liquor was the taste. It actually tastes good. While other brands use sugar and botanicals to mimic the flavor of alcohol, Clean Gin is created through the same distillation process as your favorite gin. After an entire year of research and development, the team devised a proprietary process to preserve flavor, while reducing ABV content, which is currently at~1.2%.

Beyond the product and its superior taste, we were compelled by the personal story and drive of CEO and Founder, Spencer Matthews. Spencer is a British TV personality known for his appearances on Made in Chelsea, Celebrity MasterChef, The Bachelor, and The Jump. He’s been open and public about his personal journey with alcohol and it’s one that many can relate to. In his 20s, Spencer was a heavy drinker and and when it began to have negative effects on his life at home and at work he knew it was time for a change. However, after getting married and having a baby, he was motivated to cut-back on alcohol. His journey into starting Clean Liquor is an authentic one — a characteristic we look for in all of our founders.

Clean Liquor products can be purchased online or at retail across the UK. The product is currently made in the UK, where the team is headquartered. The company has big plans to expand into new markets in 2020, so keep an eye out for Clean Liquor on your shelf soon.

We’re excited to partner with Spencer Matthews, Chairman Justin Hicklin and the whole Clean Liquor team to create the future of clean alcohol. Cheers to good health… and fewer hangovers.

— Nicole Quinn & Ashley Brasier, Lightspeed

Spencer Matthews, CEO & Co-Founder of Clean Liquor, enjoying Clean Gin — the company’s 1.2% ABV gin.
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