Clean Liquor Co raises £7m to expand globally

The Clean Liquor Company has secured a £7 million (US$8.9m) investment to help it become the number one brand in the low- and no-alcohol category.

In November last year, former Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews launched Clean Gin as the first product from his new low-alcohol firm The Clean Liquor Company.

EU regulations state gin must be bottled at at a minimum alcoholic strength of 37.5%, however Clean Gin has an ABV of 1.2%. It is described as an “ultra-low” alcohol replacement to gin.

Matthews has now raised £7m from a number of investors, made up of both private individuals and venture capital funds, for a 20% stake in The Clean Liquor Company. The company also secured US$2m in funding from investment firm Lightspeed Venture Partners in February this year.

Speaking to The Spirits Business last week, Matthews said the aim is to “deliver on our promise of being the fastest growing and best no- and low- brand on the planet”.

He said: “In order to do that we need to be heavily funded and we need to be able to execute our plan.”

Since its launch, The Clean Liquor Company’s range has expanded to include 1.2% ABV Clean Rum, flavoured variants such as rhubarb, raspberry and elderflower, and two 0.5% ABV ready-to-drink (RTD) products. The company will also release a ‘vodka’ next month.

Matthews hopes to broaden the company’s offering “across all major spirits one day whether that be Tequila or Bourbon”, and potentially move into beer and wine in the future. Matthews also wants to expand the RTD line with cocktails such as a Mojito or Moscow Mule.

On the low- and no-alcohol space, Matthews said: “The category is booming and very exciting. At the end of the day we’re looking to offer choice to consumers who drink alcohol as well as those who don’t.” The focus for the company is on Clean Gin and Rum, Matthews added.

In the UK, Clean Gin is available in supermarket chain Sainsburys, while the new RTDs are available from Holland and Barrett. Matthews said: “What we’re currently working on is household penetration here in the UK. It’s estimated that 13% of Brits know this category exists.

“Plenty of businesses are seeing substantial turnover in the space. We’re looking to drive that household penetration figure forward by using investment into sensible marketing. We have extreme plans for 2021, whether or not you have heard of us, you will have heard of us by 2021. I’m quite sure of it.”

Outselling Seedlip

Since launching in Sainsbury’s in January, Clean Gin’s total sales value is 42% higher than sales of Seedlip Grove 42. Over the last 12 weeks Clean Gin has outsold Seedlip Grove 42 by 446%, according to IRI data on Sainsbury’s cited by the company.

Matthews added that Sainsbury’s has the highest market share of no- and low-alcohol in the UK and is the largest retailer in the category. The Clean Liquor Company is also in “advanced discussions” with a number of other retailers.

He said: “We want to expand our distribution as much as possible across all retailers. We would like to be in every household – that’s a huge ask given how small the category currently is. The appetite from the public is there for this category to grow as a whole and develop.”

On his plans for next year, Matthews said the £7m funding will allow the firm to “invest more behind the brand, invest more in new product development and invest in retailers so that we have a stronger foothold across the country”.

The firm will also “go heavy” into marketing with big plans for Dry January, whereby consumers abstain from alcohol during January. “We’ll call it ‘Clean Jan’,” Matthews said. Clean Liquor Company will also launch in the US next year with a range of products created specifically for the market.

The Clean Liquor Company’s chairman, Justin Hicklin, said the company is building its distribution across Europe. He said: “We already have successful distribution partners in Ireland and listings in Ireland, both in multiple retailers and a number of smaller chains. We’re looking for other European countries to take us on. We’re not interested in being just one bottle in a portfolio, if we’re going into other countries we need a specific marketing plan.”

Hicklin believes the category will be “fundamental to the distilling trade and to drinks retailers going forward”.

He said: “We would like to see the quality of brands increasing – there’s some really good competitors out there. We want to see credibility across the category and lead that charge.”

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Author: Nicola Carruthers

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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