Founders Interview | Ben Branson @ Seedlip
My name is Ben Branson and I’m the founder of Seedlip.
Seedlip is a nature company on a mission to change the way the world drinks with our range of distilled non-alcoholic spirits. We currently have three expressions in our range, Seedlip Garden 108, Seedlip Spice 94 & Seedlip Grove 42.
Seedlip harnesses the wonderfully complex and delicious flavours from nature to create more exciting and sophisticated options so people don’t need to order lime & sodas or sugary mocktails.
Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks? What inspired you to do what you do?
The idea for Seedlip came as a combination of wanting to continue my family’s 300 year old legacy of working with the land, my love of old books and natural history and my disappointment at what was on offer in terms of non-alcoholic drinks, solve the dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking with adult & complex non-alcoholic cocktails using Seedlip.
Back in 2013, whilst researching interesting herbs I could grow at home, I came across a book written in 1651 called ‘The Art of Distillation’ that documented distilled herbal remedies – both alcoholic & non-alcoholic. Out of curiosity I bought a copper still and began experimenting in my kitchen.
Three months later I was out for dinner at a nice restaurant in London, not drinking and got offered this pink, fruity, sweet, childish mocktail. I felt like an idiot, it didn’t go with the food, and it wasn’t a great experience. Surely there must be a better way!
The dots began to join and I spent the next two years working with my still, my mother on the ingredients, my father on the design and slowly beginning to believe that maybe we could create delicious and adult non-alcoholic cocktails.
What current & future trends does your product meet?Seedlip is non-alcoholic, a movement that is growing globally as people moderate their alcohol consumption.
Seedlip is for nature, there is a climate emergency and need to both celebrate and protect the natural world we rely on.
What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Seedlip is definitely a product of my upbringing! My mother’s side of the family are in farming and my father is in design. I grew up in the countryside and then left school to head to London to begin working in brand design and was fortunate to spend a decade working on some the most iconic brands in the world [Absolut, Nike, Veuve Clicquot] as well as working directly with entrepreneurs who were just starting out.
All of my family work for themselves, my father, my brothers, my uncles and many of my cousins, entrepreneurship and working for yourself seems to run in our family.
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Seedlip is the first of its kind and that presented three key challenges;1. The Process.
Developing a bespoke maceration, distillation and filtration process for each individual plant we work with took two years of trial, error, research and testing. We have created totally unique spirits that are full of flavour, sit on the back bar and are sugar free, sweetener free, allergen and calorie free!
2. The Time.
It takes six weeks to make a bottle of Seedlip once all the ingredients have been sourced, quality checked, individually macerated, distilled and filtered before we then blend.
We are led by nature and our spirits are only as good as our produce, so with different weather conditions, harvest yields and year to year variations in flavour, coordinating the 18x ingredients we work with is certainly a challenge.
Where do you start, what do you need, I did buy ‘business for dummies’, I did sign up for the wrong VAT, I made lots of mistakes and that’s ok!
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
I arrived into Shanghai Airport to launch Seedlip there two years ago.
The plan was take a taxi to the hotel, drop the bags and then head to the launch party.
I came through arrivals and there was a taxi driver with my name on a plaque......All good.
We got to the car and he asked me to sit in the front....Ok.
We got in & he took his shirt off. “Woah woah woah, what kind of taxi driver are you?!!!”.
He revealed a tattoo of the illustration on our bottle of Seedlip Spice 94. “I’m a bartender here in Shanghai and a massive fan of Seedlip”.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
The odds are so incredibly high that you will fail so you must be willing to sacrifice everything. You must create something that is needed, that solves a real challenge in people’s lives and you must do it either first, better or differently to the competition. If you can answer yes to those three questions, then go for it.
What is your favourite meal?
I don’t eat meat much these days but once in a while my mother’s roast lamb is still my favourite.
What do you do to make yourself relax?
I’m most relaxed outside in nature either pottering in my veg patch, walking the dogs or showing our children the wonders of the natural world [that isn’t actually usually that exciting come to think of it, rewarding though nonetheless].
What is your No.1 thing you want to achieve/do on your bucket list?
I just did it this morning.
I met Sir David Attenborough and was able to give him our new gift set that’s made of mushrooms and have him sign my copy of his new book “A Life on our planet’!