SpaceX Investor Backs Lyre’s as Demand for Sober Liquor Soars
(Bloomberg) -- Lyre’s, a producer of non-alcoholic spirits that mimic the taste of rum and whiskey, has closed a funding round with backing from several venture firms including Morgan Creek Capital Management, an early investor in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and SpaceX.
The Series A round values Lyre’s at 270 million pounds ($360 million), up from a valuation of 100 million pounds earlier this year. The investment of 20 million pounds will primarily finance marketing expenses and the hiring of about 50 new employees as drinkers emerge from pandemic-induced lockdowns and return to bars and restaurants, Mark Livings, chief executive officer of Lyre’s, said in an interview.
“This is the gateway from becoming a scale-up to a true multinational beverage company,” Livings said. “We need things like in-house legal counsel, we need a lot more muscle in finance, we need more muscle in production” and more customer-facing personnel, he said.
Livings founded London-based Lyre’s in 2019 amid surging demand for liquor analogs that don’t get drinkers buzzed. Sales of low- and no-alcohol drinks outside bars and restaurants grew almost 10-fold to $3.1 billion last year, according to Nielsen data. The trend has caught the attention of the world’s largest distillers: Diageo Plc, the maker of Johnnie Walker scotch and Smirnoff vodka, acquired non-alcoholic startup Seedlip in 2019 and Martell cognac producer Pernod Ricard SA bought Ceder’s, a Seedlip rival, last year.
Mark Yusko, the chief executive officer of Morgan Creek, said in an emailed statement that the firm was “excited” to see its investment’s impact on sales and marketing efforts.
While Seedlip and Ceder’s have distinct herbaceous notes that don’t resemble spirit categories such as gin or tequila, Lyre’s brands including American Malt and Italian Spritz aim to replicate the exact flavor of popular liquor and replace it in cocktails. The business has expanded to 60 countries and is on track to generate 50 million pounds in sales this year, Livings said.
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