LONDON: Diageo, the international drinks group, has partnered with an innovation specialist in a move to invest in new spirits brands across Europe and to encourage consumers to trade up to premium drinks.

Distill Ventures, operated by Diageo and United, is reported by Marketing to have £15m available for a Seed Programme to help entrepreneurs develop both their business skills and their products, as well as for a Growth Programme to support new spirit brands.

As well as providing funds to the programme, Diageo will give successful applicants access to its global experience and expertise in the spirits industry.

"We are seeing some brilliant new brands being born and built that are achieving commercial success," said Syl Saller, chief marketing officer at Diageo, as she noted "a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit" in the drinks sector.

"The combination of cash and expertise, whilst leaving them in control of their business, will help new brands to flourish," she added.

With the new initiative, Diageo is also hoping that the initiative will increase the number of Western European consumers prepared to trade up to premium spirits. This follows the success of its Ciroc vodka brand in North America.

The venture is launching initially in the UK before being rolled out to major European cities, including Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid and Copenhagen.

Diageo joins a growing list of leading brand owners, including Nike and PepsiCo, that have developed accelerator schemes and are tapping into start-ups. But where most of these have tended to be focused on marketing tools and apps, Diageo is unusual in seeking out actual products.

The drinks business has itself introduced several new products recently, including a Bailey's brand extension, Bailey's Chocolate Luxe, which fuses Belgian chocolate with alcohol.

And in Australia, it has turned to 'retro flavours' for a new range of pre-mix drinks which include Bundaberg Rum mixed with brewed apple ale, sarsparilla, passionfruit ale, creaming soda or ginger beer.

Data sourced from Marketing, Marketing Week, Ad News; additional content by Warc staff