Profile series: Innovators in low/no alcohol

My Drynuary: 'For us, this month will be about getting out to people as much as we can with tastings'

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

My Drynuary: Salcombe Distilling Company expands New London Light

Related tags NABLAB alcohol-free non-alcoholic Uk

UK coastal distillery Salcombe Distilling Company launched its non-alcoholic spirit range New London Light in 2020. In our new series of interviews celebrating innovators in the low/no alcohol industry, Howard​ Davies, co-founder and director of the distillery, tells us what's coming up for the company in 2023.

BD: What led you to launch a non-alcoholic drink?

Salcombe Distilling Company was founded by myself and my business partner Angus Lugsdin and we initially launched Salcombe Gin in 2016; our products have always been inspired by Salcombe’s rich nautical history and flavours relating to the exotic fruits and spices that were imported to the UK on fast sailing ships called the Salcombe Fruit Schooners that were built there in the 19th​ century.

new london light profile

Since launching Salcombe Gin we also became fascinated by the non-alcoholic sector alongside the challenges of balancing our own busy lives with moderation / health and frankly thought we could take our team’s expertise to create some outstanding non-alcoholic spirits focusing on quality and taste and improve on what was currently available in the market; thus our ‘New London Light’ product range was born.

In 2020 we initially produced ‘First Light’ within this range with flavours very much inspired by gin; juniper with a little ginger and habanero for cut through/warmth which had an excellent response from critics.

Since then we have really focused on bold innovative flavours breaking away alcoholic substitutes and launch two further products; ‘Midnight Sun’ which has Nordic pine and berry flavours, slightly fruity but very complex, and ‘Aegean Sky’ whose core flavour is Mediterranean bitter citrus with notes of olive providing a very light saline note alongside this.

What sets your brand apart from the rest?

Taste. It has to start there; everything we have done has been to produce a range of sprits and aperitifs that simply taste exceptional and can be enjoyed as part of any drinking occasion with or without others who may be drinking alternative alcoholic beverages.

In addition to the core focus of taste, we are very proud of our production process for New London Light in which the heart of each liquid is produced either through traditional or vacuum distillation in our waterside distillery in Salcombe by our team, prior to then having further specialist botanical extracts blended in with our partners; we believe we are fairly unique in being a core part of the production process rather than just having this outsourced.

What does your job involve?

I oversee our direct consumer sales (e.g. website and our stores in Salcombe and Dartmouth) as well as our operations alongside keeping a hand in to our marketing – day to day this can vary massively, there is no typical day! One day I may be working with the team on longer term product and marketing strategy vs another day where I really enjoy directly speaking to our customers, for example in December I spent quite a few days working in our ‘chalet’ at the Exeter Christmas Market doing tastings and selling our products which was a lot of fun.  

How have you see the low/no market evolve?

There have been a lot of entrants to the market and progressively the quality of products out there have continually improved which has been great to see, alongside this consumer attitude to the no/low sector has moved on a long way; it is much more of a social norm to not drink alcohol and the interest and growth in this sector has been huge.

In 2023, I think further innovation will be the key development with more advanced techniques for obtaining delicate flavours in non-alcoholic drinks being developed as well as taste/flavour combinations breaking new barriers in originality and moving away from traditional alcoholic drink flavours.

What markets is New London Light available in?

'There is huge growth ahead with a particular area of interest being the on-trade which is developing rapidly'

Our primary markets at present are the UK and US, but alongside these we are also have some presence in a number of other countries.

Even just in the UK and US the no/low market is still in its infancy and there is huge growth ahead with a particular area of interest being the on-trade which is developing rapidly with more venues having dedicated non-alcoholic sections / cocktail areas on their menus and working hard to draw attention to and raise the profile of these.

What does January look like for New London Light?

We do expect a peak of New London Light sales in January, but for us it is just as importantly about awareness and trial; many people will try non-alcoholic drinks for the first time in January and be surprised at just how good they are, therefore they are then likely to be continued consumers of non-alcs through the rest of the year also (possibly alongside alcoholic drinks too).

So for us, it will be about getting out to people as much as we can offering tastings and opportunity to try New London Light in partnership with our trade partners who stock our products.

And what should we look out from you in the rest of 2023?

I can’t say too much about our plans in 2023 as we are keeping it under wraps; let's just say that bold innovation remains at the heart of everything we do…

What inspires you on your low/no alcohol journey?​ 

I get inspired by all sorts… It’s always great to see what flavour combinations other brands are developing and the thing that particularly inspires me is what other brands are doing more broadly beyond their products in terms of providing benefit to the environment or people.

For instance our work with the Marine Conservation Society protecting and regenerating seagrass in which we donate to meaningful projects from every bottle of New London Light we sell was inspired by seeing what some other brands had done in other industries ‘above ground’ on planting trees and protecting wildlife habitats.

What’s your favorite New London Light drink? 

Our New London Light ‘Aegean Sky’ – I just love the bitter citrus notes; It’s a simple serve with a good quality tonic water garnished with some rosemary and a slice of olive which complements the flavour as well as having a sophistication to it that makes me just want to savour the taste over a long drink in good company…

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