Diageo to support new drinks brands as it unveils Belgian chocolate Baileys sub-brand

Diageo has partnered with London-based innovation specialists Independents United to create Distill Ventures in a bid to seek out new spirits brands.

Diageo: offering marketing support to start-up spirit brands
Diageo: offering marketing support to start-up spirit brands

Diageo is reported to have a £15m top-line investment fund for the new venture, which encourages entrepreneurs to apply for a six-month Seed Programme.

Launching in the UK, the venture is expected to roll out across the rest of Europe shortly, with Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid and Copenhagen already earmarked as major cities for the initiative.

The programme aims to help entrepreneurs develop their core business skills and get their products fully developed and launched into the growing spirit market.

Distill Ventures is offering funding between £150,000 and £200,000 to a maximum of five successful candidates found through the programme in mid-November.

In addition to the Seed Programme, which will include masterclasses, business management programmes and mentoring, Distill Ventures will launch a Growth Programme in mid-2014 that aims to provide investment and support to young and established spirit brands in order to help them grow rapidly. It is expected that £2m will be available to applicants.

We are seeing some brilliant new brands being born and built that are achieving commercial success.

Diageo’s role in the new venture sees it provide funds to the programme while allowing the budding entrepreneurs access to its global experience and expertise in the spirits industry.

Syl Saller, chief marketing officer at Diageo, said: "We are seeing some brilliant new brands being born and built that are achieving commercial success. The combination of cash and expertise, whilst leaving them in control of their business, will help new brands to flourish."

Separately, Diageo has brought a new product to market in the form of Baileys Chocolate Luxe, a brand extension claiming to be the first time real Belgian chocolate has been fused with alcohol.

The new drink has been created by Anthony Wilson, a scientist and the son of one of Baileys Original Irish Cream’s creators, Steve Wilson.

Diageo claimed it took Wilson and his team of scientists 839 failed attempts before finding the perfect blend of chocolate and whiskey, making the process a three-year long venture before the new product was honed and ready to bring to market. 

The product, which launches next month, will be backed by a £5.5m marketing campaign that includes TV advertising from October.

Market research, development and advertising for Baileys Chocolat Luxe is being handled by 101, while R/GA is creating a digital campaign to support the launch. BBH remains the agency of record for the main Baileys brand.

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