Diageo-funded spirits innovation company Distill Ventures has made a minority investment in US-based Ritual Zero Proof.

Ritual Zero Proof is claimed to be the first American company to produce spirit alternatives, which taste and smell similar to spirits.

Headquartered in Chicago, Ritual Beverage Company was founded by three friends Marcus Sakey, GG Sakey and David Crooch.

Ritual Zero Proof founding partner and chief brand officer Marcus Sakey said: “Just like almond milk and veggie burgers, spirit alternatives are changing the landscape. In 18 months, we predict non-alcoholic options will be on every menu and the shelves of every grocery store.

“Americans want more choice, and Ritual Zero Proof is all about more – more flavour, more moments, more life, that is. It’s the only American-made spirit alternative to echo the taste, smell and burn of a spirit – without the alcohol or calories.”

The investment will be used by Ritual towards its direct-to-consumer business and supporting its entry into retail.

The deal also gives the top management team of the Ritual Zero Proof access to Distill Ventures’ dedicated non-alcoholic drinks practice, helping the company to develop the business in the future.

Diageo’s Distill Ventures was founded in 2013 and is said to be the world’s first independent drinks accelerator that supports entrepreneurs.

It is active in both traditional spirits categories and emerging drinks categories across Europe, Asia and North America.

Previously, Distill Ventures acquired a minor stake in Seedlip, a UK-based non-alcoholic spirits brand.

Distill Ventures North America portfolio director and non-alcoholic lead Heidi Dillon Otto said: “We are thrilled to welcome Ritual Zero Proof and its seasoned team of drink entrepreneurs into the Distill Ventures portfolio as we build the future of non-alcoholic drinks, a category we have proudly supported since our investment in Seedlip back in 2015.”