Molecular spirit maker Endless West raises $21M

Dive Brief:

  • Endless West, which creates alcoholic beverages by replicating molecular structures, raised $21 million in a Series B round. Investors include Horizons Ventures, Litani Ventures, North East Family Office and SOSV.
  • The funds will be used to accelerate technology development and R&D; increase U.S. distribution for its molecular spirits Glyph, Gemello and Kazoku; and expand its B2B Blank Collective platform.
  • Endless West is one of several companies in the food and beverage space using technology to make a product in a non-traditional way. Endless West says its Glyph, which is a whiskey-inspired spirit, uses 94% less water and 92% less agricultural land than traditional whiskey. It also doesn’t need to mature, and production facilities can easily be built close to where consumers are located.

Dive Insight:

Reverse engineering traditional food and drink is becoming more popular. Endless West is unique in that it’s working with alcohol. The company was started in 2015 after co-founder Mardonn Chua saw a wine in Napa Valley that was considered too precious to taste. He started thinking about how that wine could be recreated without grapes while deconstructing the elements that provided its distinct taste, feel and smell.

In the last two years, Endless West has released three types of spirits: whiskey-based Glyph, moscato-inspired Gemello and sake-like Kazoku. The company created two more variations of Glyph last year: American bourbon-inspired Glyph Spice and sherry cask-aged Scotch-inspired Glyph Royal. Tasters generally give high marks to Glyph, which the company says has won 14 awards since it hit the market. According to the press release announcing the funding, Endless West will be launching a fourth beverage later this year.

“For too long, we’ve been operating under the guise that the finest beverages must be produced using large swaths of land, exploiting precious resources,” said Sarah Cone, a founder and managing partner of Social Impact Capital whose venture capital firm previously invested in Endless West. Its “use of technology presents a precise, flavorful experience without significant amounts of resources such as wood, water, land and energy that is usually needed to produce wine and spirits.”

Endless West could be ideally positioned to disrupt the alcoholic beverage space with its technology. Further developing its signature brands could help grow the business, but building a robust B2B arm could do even more to increase its reach and sales. Its B2B Blank Collective platform extends Endless West’s technology to any business, offering to create signature drinks or replicate existing ones.

While consumers may be hesitant to try liquor that wasn’t made through traditional fermentation and distillation methods, they are much more likely to accept it as part of a drink at a bar or in a premixed cocktail. This helps immediate sales of the molecular spirits. Once consumers learn they have been drinking reverse-engineered spirits, they are likely to trust the process and try other varieties.

Several plant-based companies are using similar methods to create traditional animal-based foods in new ways.

Impossible Foods recreates heme — a naturally occurring iron-carrying molecule that gives meat its trademark taste — from genetically modified soy. Perfect Day makes fermented dairy proteins, which are the same as traditional milk, but don’t come from cows. Motif Foodworks is developing several alternative ingredients from plant sources, and expects to get some on the market this year. Clara Foods is using fermentation technologies to make animal-free ingredients, including egg whites and pepsin.

Endless West isn’t the only company bringing today’s technology to alcoholic beverages. Bespoken Spirits has developed a rapid maturation process to produce aged liquor in a matter of days. The company, which counts Derek Jeter as an investor, is also becoming an industry player. These companies may be the beginning of a transformation of the alcohol segment, where anything is possible.

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