He Convinced A CPG Giant To Invest… Pre-Launch. Here's How.

+ Marcus Sakey, Ritual Zero Proof


What compelled Diageo, one of the largest CPG companies in the world, to invest in non-alcoholic spirit brand Ritual Zero Proof, which at the time of the funding deal was pre-launch and operating in a nascent category? The short answer is that it gave them — and, more importantly, their consumers — options.

Launched in 2019, Ritual Zero Proof is a brand of non-alcoholic spirits crafted from natural botanicals and designed to mimic the flavor and burn of a classic spirit. The brand markets gin, whiskey, tequila, rum and aperitifs and is available nationally at retailers including Total Wine and Binny’s Beverage Depot, as well as select Kroger banners and Hy-Vee locations. 

Shortly before the debut of Ritual Zero Proof, the brand received a minority investment from global beverage alcohol company Diageo via its partnership with Distill Ventures, a venture capital firm and accelerator that invests in disruptive distilled spirit companies and non-alcoholic beverage brands. 

In a press release about the deal, Ritual Zero Proof co-founder Marcus Sakey noted that “Americans want more choice,” and that non-alcoholic spirits represent an endurable shift in consumers’ ability to choose what and when they want to drink, a statement echoed by executives at Diageo and Distill Ventures. 

In this episode, Sakey spoke about the impact of Ritual Zero Proof’s business strategy, liquid and branding in how Distill Ventures evaluated the company. He also spoke about how the brand became an anchor in an increasingly crowded category, the evolution of its marketing strategy, and how he assesses challenges from and advantages over new and existing brands.

In this Episode

0:43: Interview: Marcus Sakey, Co-Founder, Ritual Zero Proof – Sakey spoke with Taste Radio editor about Ritual Zero Proof’s recent partnership with restaurant chain Uno Pizzeria & Grill and why he isn’t abstaining from alcohol during “Dry January.” He also discussed the inspiration behind the brand, the undrinkable original kitchen recipe, how hustling to get the attention of a Distill Ventures executive paid off, why sampling is often challenging but critical to converting skeptics and building relationships with consumers, and how the company considers ways to improve taste and aroma. 

Also Mentioned

Ritual Zero Proof, Athletic Brewing, Guinness