The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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LLAF Speakers Bios

Shilen Patel – Drink Sherpa

Shilen is co-founder at Drinks Sherpa. He has 25+ years of experience at successfully disrupting the drinks industry.

The first third of his career was spent inside large corporates disrupting from within across strategy, M&A, marketing and innovation.

The second third was spent as a serial entrepreneur across food and drinks, technology, fashion, e-commerce and innovation agencies.

In the final third, he was co-founder at Distill Ventures – the world’s first dedicated accelerator for drinks startups. Over 8 years he built and led a dedicated NoLo specialist practise with a successful portfolio of rapid growth, disruptive NoLo brands.

The first of these was Seedlip, where he mentored Ben Branson and his team on strategy, growth model, team and investment which eventually led to Seedlip being acquired by Diageo. Along the way he acquired a deep understanding of the entire global NoLo category and developed unique insights leading to a playbook for success across NoLo spirits, beer and wine.


Kate Blake – Diageo

Kate Blake is a Senior Category Strategy Manager at Diageo, developing and leading the category code for growth on Alcohol Free in the GB market with Diageo’s Customers.

Diageo’s portfolio of Alcohol Free products include Guinness 0.0%, Tanqueray 0.0%, Gordon’s 0.0%, Captain Morgan 0.0% and Seedlip. Helping people to drink better, not more.


Millie Gooch – Sober Girl Society

Millie Gooch is the founder of the Sober Girl Society and one of the voices leading the UK’s sobriety movement. Her first book, The Sober Girl Society Handbook was described as “an empowering survival guide” by the Evening Standard and led to her appointment as a proud ambassador for Alcohol Change UK. Millie’s authority documenting her sobriety journey has led to partnerships with a multitude of global brands including Tinder, Anthropologie, Microsoft Windows and Boots. She’s also delivered employee workshops for the likes of ASOS, Charlotte Tilbury and the Ministry of Justice.


Emma Wykes – Pollen Projects

Founding Partner of Pollen Projects & CEO seasn cocktail bitters


Ben Branson

Ben Branson is an inventor, entrepreneur and naturalist. In 2015 he founded Seedlip, the world’s first & world’s no.1 distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand. An invention he successfully took from his kitchen to 35 countries and the world’s best bars, restaurants, hotels and retailers in less than 4 years before selling a majority stake to the world’s biggest premium spirits company Diageo.

With an industry respected branding and design guru father and 320 years of farming on his mother’s side Ben spent his career in the design industry working with brands like Nike, Moet & Chandon, Innocent, Farrow & Ball.

In 2013 Ben was researching more ingredients to grow at home which led him to a book of herbal remedies “The Art of Distillation” – published in 1651. He began experimenting with a small copper still and herbs from his garden and over 2 years the opportunity to solve the dilemma of ‘what do you drink when you’re not drinking alcohol’ was revealed. Almost as if his life’s path had led him to this point, Ben married his family’s farming heritage and branding prowess to create Seedlip and a new category now worth over $1bn.


Gareth Bath

MANAGING DIRECTOR – REST OF WORLD – DISTILL VENTURES

Gareth oversees day-to-day operations for the London-based Distill Ventures team, guiding key organisational strategies to maintain their competitive edge as an industry leader. Leveraging his commercial acumen honed at organisations like Chapel Down, Red Bull and BrewDog, he works closely with founders to hone their leadership capabilities for greater success. Gareth also elevates DV’s portfolio through strategic profiling with industry stakeholders.


Bill Shufelt

Bill Shufelt is Founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing Company based in the US. A former college athlete and hedge fund trader, Bill fused his financial acumen and love of beer in a partnership with the award-winning brewer John Walker.


Steve Hamon, The Vegan Society

The Vegan Society continues to hold true to the vision of our founding members as we work towards a world in which humans do not exploit other animals. We’re as determined as ever to promote vegan lifestyles for the benefit of animals, people and the environment.

Prior to joining The Vegan Society in 2020 as Head of Business Development and then Head of Commercial Services, Hamon, who hails from Guernsey and trained as an engineer in the Royal Air Force, spent 20 years in senior positions in the Testing Inspection & Certification (TIC) Industry, including BSI and Intertek PLC.

During his time at the society, has helped secure over 12 new partnership deals, overseen the society reaching the Vegan Trademark registration of its 70,000th product, the growth of its supplement, VEG1.


Sam Millard  –  Head of Innovation at Beavertown Brewery


David Begg

David founded The REAL Drinks Co. in 2016 to create high-quality non-alcoholic beverages. After two years of development, REAL launched a series of non-alcoholic sparklings that gained a following among top sommeliers in the UK and Europe and is now a leading brand in the no&lo sector. Following his success, David has expanded his focus to include the broader non-alc drinks category, working with partners to develop a range of fermented drinks.

A manufacturing engineer by training, David spent ten years in strategy consulting, primarily with Bain & Co. He has been part of the founding team of disruptive start-ups like Active Hotels, Tom Dixon, Mindshapes, and Clippings.com but his passion for food, growing, regenerative food systems and sustainable health inspired his move into drinks.


Roddy Nicoll –  Managing Director of Spirits of Virtue


Chris Becker

Chris is a recovering management consultant and technology exec who has worked in startups and digital transformation way too long. This includes working inside lots of large companies in banking, finance, insurance and media. 

He’s exited and is involved in several ventures in the web content, original programming and creative production industries that are revolutionizing content and entertainment in the digital age. 

Better Rhodes is the culmination of many personal and professional elements for Chris and he’s extremely excited about the possibilities for AF and adult premium beverages. 


Blake Gladman

Blake has worked in research & insights for 20 years. He started his career at Kantar before joining Lumina Intelligence in 2009. Blake has worked across all areas of research and insights and has led the development of new products, content and marketing. He joined KAM, as a partner, in 2018 to drive forward their expertise in delivering market-leading research and insight-led products.


Nick Bodkins

Nick is Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Boisson, a consumer ecommerce and import/wholesale distribution platform for emerging non-alcoholic and functional beverages.


Rob Fink – Big Drop

Rob is the founder of one of the world’s first alcohol-free-only brewing companies.


Melanie Masarin – Ghia Spirits

Melanie Masarin is the founder of Ghia, a non-alcoholic aperitif designed to change the way we think about drinking and socializing. Ghia was inspired by the summers enjoyed with her family in the South of France near the Mediterranean – moments spent entertaining friends, cooking together, and having conversations that lasted until dawn. Ghia is meant to create an aperitivo hour that, like those childhood memories, invites everyone to the table and transports you to a place of simple pleasures and connection (without numbing the night). Since its launch, Ghia has been praised by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and many others.


Matt Lambert – The Portman Group

Matt Lambert is the Chief Executive Officer of the Portman Group.

Matt joined the Portman Group as CEO in January 2021. Responsible for providing strategic leadership and developing the organisation’s membership, Matt uses his extensive experience in national and international management and corporate affairs to champion the Portman Group, and to build on its reputation as a strong and independent regulator and a powerful and persuasive voice for alcohol social responsibility.

Prior to joining the Portman Group, Matt held senior roles in corporate affairs, including with Microsoft and Betfair, and is a former CEO of the Federation for Industry Sector, Skills and Standards.


Martin Dibben – Head of Champagne Searcys

With a hospitality career spanning 30 years, Martin started in the Royal Household in the food department and then joined Prue Leith of “Bake Off” fame for nine years, where he was promoted to Operations Director. In 1999, Martin opened his restaurant Dibbens in Smithfield Market, with Zagat describing it as one of the best restaurants in the City and has since held the position of Operations Director at key venues across the capital, looking after some of London’s most iconic venues, including the Barbican, The Serpentine Gallery and the Historic Royal Palaces.

Having graduated from L’Academie du Champagne in 2000, Dibben became its chairman in 2016. More recently, he was appointed Consul of the South of England for the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne – the official guild representing the Champagne region.


Camille Vidal

Founder of the mindful drinking brand and creative consultancy La Maison Wellness, Camille has spent her career as a consultant and global brand ambassador most notably for St- Germain and the Bacardi family of brands.


Kate Johns – Nudge PR

Kate is Nudge’s founder and Managing Director. She has worked in PR for 28 years and is an expert in food and drink PR. She drives the business forward and instills a vibrant company culture.


Melanie Hayes – Bethnal Green Ventures

Melanie Hayes (she/her) is a Managing Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe’s leading early stage tech for good VC. She is a Chartered Accountant with over 15 years of experience in early-stage investment spanning corporate venturing, M&A, specialist finance and impact investment. She’s led over 100 transactions and specialises in supporting founders with business model strategy, commercial growth, fundraising, organisational development and impact. An experienced board member, Melanie currently sits on four growth-stage portfolio company boards. Prior to BGV, she worked at Octopus Investments, Channel 4 and Deloitte.

Melanie is also an Ambassador for ReGenerate – a charity whose mission is to make it easier to start, grow and lead a purpose-driven business.


Eugene Patterson – Revibed Drinks

Alongside my Father, I decided to create a unique tasting drink so the world could reap the benefits and enjoy, just as we did in the Patterson’s household. During the lockdown in 2020, mental and physical health were declining due to a lack of social interaction and isolation. We wanted to create something that could deliver a positive message and resonate with people – but more importantly, provide a variety of drinks that oozed health benefits, creating a healthy body and mind.


Dan L’Anson – Everleaf Drinks

Daniel I’Anson is the Commercial Director of Everleaf, a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs inspired by, and produced with flavours from the natural world. Everleaf makes non-alcoholic drinks taste great, and sell better! He has worked in the drinks industry for over twenty-five years in a range of sales, marketing and brand building roles.

His experience covers both large multi-national companies such as LVMH and Pernod Ricard as well as start-up businesses. He is passionate about brand experience, liquid excellence and the stories which sit behind every drink and bottle.


Denise Hamilton-Mace – Low No Drinker Magazine

Following a 24-year career in hospitality, Denise Hamilton-Mace is now the founder and editor of Low No Drinker Magazine, the no.1 UK magazine for mindful & sober curious drinkers, and the host of the Low No Drinker Podcast, a weekly conversation with low/no-&-light brand founders and industry experts.
Denise is also a public speaker and writer passionately championing the rise and rise of the low/no-&-light alcohol industry.


Daniya Stewart – Dry Drinker

Daniya is the MD of Drydrinker, the UKs leading retailer of low/no alcohol. She is well versed on both sides of the retail coin having launched her own retail food brand into Selfridges and Whole Foods as well as introducing new brands to Drydrinker.


Christine Parkinson – World Alcohol Free Awards

Previously the multi-award-winning Group Head of Wine for Hakkasan, Chrissie is one half of the No/Low consultancy Brimful Drinks, and in 2022 co-founded the World Alcohol-Free Awards. Pioneering work with No & Low drinks since 2016 and known as a committed educator and thoughtful communicator. Awards include Imbibe Industry Legend, IWSC Lifetime Achievement, WSET Educator of the Year.


Rachel Hewlett

Working for over 20 years in food supply, Rachel has led a number of teams in manufacturing and retail, buying, marketing and food service. She has a breadth of experience that enables her to maximise relationships delivering commercially for retailers, manufacturers and customers.

As far as highlights go, she’s enjoyed working for major brands including Selfridges, Sodexo, and Costa She’s advised start ups and local firms developing sales strategies and worked with digital platforms to drive disruption in the online wholesale area.


Wim Boekema

Wim Boekema is founder of Nix & Nix, the first non alcoholic bottleshop chain in Europe. In 2021 he opened the first fully non alcoholic bottleshop in The Netherlands. Nix & Nix has since expanded to 4 stores across the country, an online platform and distribution business.  He is on a mission to show the world that alcoholfree drinks are tasty, perfect for any drinking occasion and bring lots of benefits in life. 

Previously Wim held a number of positions in investment banking in London, Hong Kong, Brussels and Amsterdam. During his career he helped build businesses across Europe. He loves art, good food and sports. 

Wim lives together with his fiancée and 3 daughters near Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 


Vaughan Yates

Vaughan has over 25 years’ experience in the drinks strategy sector, and he has used his knowledge to pioneer the world’s first luxury wellbeing bar group.

Throughout his career, he has developed central aspects of over 40 leading spirits distilleries around the world including the iconic Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Hampshire. As CEO of renowned drinks consultancy 1751 Ltd. since 2012, he has advised a who’s who of the drinks industry, developing brand strategy for Pernod Ricard, Brown Forman, Bacardi, Diageo and Beam Suntory.

Vaughan pushed the boundaries of his entrepreneurship to a new level in 2019 when he founded Europe’s first dedicated alcohol-free cocktail bar, The Virgin Mary, in Dublin. As the creator of TVM, he is incredibly excited to be delivering high-end wellbeing venues globally through the franchising and licensing of TVM Collective Ltd.


Sam Cooklin – Smith

Worked in the drinks industry for over 14 years, with a background working in wine, then for wineries in Australia. Followed by work with the UK leading RTMs across wine and spirits and helping launch Enotria’s non-alc portfolio in 2018. More recently, I was commercial manager at the IWSC leading the sales team & working as a consultant for drinks brands internationally.

In 2023, I co-founded Kore Drinks a specialist agency/distributor for low & no drinks brands as well as disruptive drinks without boundaries. We work with venues, distributors, brands and partners across the UK market with ambitions to expand globally and disrupt a traditional market.


Roberta McKeown

After an early career in corporate headhunting, Roberta decided her love of wine was too great to ignore, and so decided to spend a year in Australia’s Yarra Valley, working the vintage and gaining cellar hand experience at numerous commercial and boutique wineries. This solidified her passion and she hasn’t looked back since.

Roberta is now the Wine Trading Controller at Molson Coors Beverage Company, and previously was the Category Buying Manager for Wine for both Heineken’s free trade business and the Heineken owned Star Pubs & Bars. Prior to this, she was the Buyer for German and latterly New Zealand wine at Tesco UK.


Raissa de Haas

Joyce and Raissa de Haas are the dynamic twin co-founders of award-winning UK premium tonic and mixers brand Double Dutch. Since launching in 2015, they have received numerous accolades with Sir Richard Branson supporting their vision by awarding them a coveted Foodpreneur Award. Additional honours include receiving the prestigious 2024 King’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade and taking a spot on the prestigious Forbes ’30 under 30’ Europe list. In just a few years they have built a multi-million pound business that has attracted investment from drinks industry titans and experts, including the Heineken family.

Born in the Netherlands, Joyce and Raissa moved to Belgium and studied at the University of Antwerp before taking jobs in finance. After a couple of months, they decided to return to study, moving to London in 2013 to take up a masters in Tech Entrepreneurship at UCL. While the world’s choice of spirits continued to expand during this time, the twins saw a lack of innovation in the market for flavourful, low-calorie mixers. By the end of completing their second master’s degree, the twins had secured funding via UCL’s Bright Ideas Award to found Double Dutch and launched their debut mixers – ‘Pomegranate & Basil’ and ‘Cucumber & Watermelon’ – to rave reviews and numerous accolades. Low-calorie, vegan-friendly and natural, sustainably sourced flavours, the brand now sells to over 45 countries worldwide including Belgium, The Netherlands and the UAE. In the UK the brand is now available in over 5000 bars and restaurants including Soho House, Zuma, Aubaine, Dishoom and The Mandrake.

Beyond business success, Joyce and Raissa are committed to contributing to positive social change, with the brand recently securing B Corporation status, showcasing their commitment to responsible business practices – a distinction unmatched by any other major mixer brand. Double Dutch is also recognised for its work on inclusivity, notably through initiatives like the Female Bartending scholarship program, and its charitable work with the Princes’ Trust.


Luke Boase

Luke Boase is the founder of Lucky Saint


Louise Fitzpatrick

Louise Fitzpatrick is Strategic Growth Manager for HEINEKEN Globally, with a focus on growth opportunities in LoNo and Beyond Beer. She has worked for HEINEKEN for over 12 years, across various roles and functions, in both Dublin and Amsterdam. In previous roles, she was responsible for fuelling consumer centricity by adopting future proof tools and capabilities. She also led the roll out of the organisation’s Global Demand Space framework, and was a key instigator of the company’s expansion into Low and No Alcohol beverages. Prior to HEINEKEN, Louise held a number of roles in innovation and media agencies, as well as a stint as Insights Manager for Tourism Ireland. Louise is passionate about the Low and No alochol beer and how the category is meeting the evolving needs of consumers.


Kelly Moss

WSTA Kelly deals with compliance and food regulatory matters. She leads on low and no which includes acting as secretariat to the WSTA’s Low and No Working Group, a group formed to support WSTA members in producing, labelling and promoting LoNo alcohol products in the UK.


Jeremy May

Jeremy is the Co-founder of Nice, an unpretentious wine company. He has spent the best part of 15 years helping build business in the food and beverage sector and launched Nice with business partner Lucy Busk in 2019. The business is on a mission to change the way the world wines, for the better.


Dan Crowther

Throughout his career Dan has built up a solid reputation as one of the UK’s most respected liquor aficionados and was crowned Global Gin Ambassador of the Year at the Icons of Gin Awards in 2018. The award was in honour of his partnership with Ableforth’s, who have been a staple of the most discerning of bars around the globe with their iconic Bathtub Gin.


Emma Heal

Lucky Saint’s very own Managing Director. Emma is a consumer goods guru with almost 20 years of experience under her belt, from global brands like Diageo to start-ups turned household names like Graze and Innocent. The mum of two girls, Emma is an advocate for championing women in industry, and is an ambassador for Retail Week’s Be Inspired programme and Steering Group Member for The Grocery Girls.


Helen Michels

Helen’s background is in drinks marketing – spanning soft drinks, coffee, beer and spirits.
She spent 17 years of her career at Diageo, leading the innovation team and innovating across categories including whisky, vodka, gin and RTD’s. Helen co founded Distill Ventures whilst at Diageo and led Diageo’s first venture into the non alcoholic spirits category. As a partner in Drinks Sherpa, she works to help the world drink better by supporting drinks founders and startups with investment and mentoring.


David Hodgson

A foundation in hotel management, including The Ritz London, introduced David to the world of fine wines, later joining the Australian assault on the global wine market while working as Director of Brands – UK/Europe for Rosemount Estate Wines. Recognising the encouraging developments in the NOLO beverage sector, David established the Vinolo project in 2018 to critically assess existing products and focus on creating alcohol-free wines for enthusiasts. Mindful of the impact of years of consuming alcohol on his own health, he decided to go alcohol-free himself, although longed to still be able to enjoy the fascinating flavours, textures & ritual that only wine provides. With Co-Founder & wine trade veteran Will Willis, David launched ZENO Prestige alcohol-liberated wines in December 2022, garnering numerous awards & continuing to discover new techniques to improve alcohol-free wine quality & sophistication. David also actively works to support the dynamic NoLo segment as it grows & prospers internationally.


Josh Kelly

Josh Kelly is the Head Buyer and brand relationship manager for The Club Soda Tasting Rooms. He has been part of the Low and No movement since 2017, where he has gained a broad perspective into the sector both within the UK and abroad.

He is a regular IWSC judge, Senior WAFA Judge, and specialist lead judge in No and Low Wine for WSET. He has been a guest panellist at Imbibe, The No2Low Show and London Wine Fair.

Josh has worked with several brands at the developmental stage of new products and has led training for market leaders including Diageo, Moet & Hennessy, Red Bull and 67 Pall Mall.  


Nicolas Medicamento

From 2020 Nicolas Medicamento has ventured into the entrepreneurial realm, leveraging his extensive expertise to empower the hospitality industry. As an inspiring Speaker, bar Trainer, and Judge in prestigious cocktail and spirits competitions, he is sharing his wisdom and elevate the standards of the craft.

In addition, Nicolas collaborates with luxury brands and renowned chefs, creating unforgettable food and beverage experiences. His innate ability to merge flavors, innovate cocktail recipes, and curate remarkable dining encounters has made him a sought-after collaborator in the world of gastronomy. 

Nicolas Medicamento was an integral part of the team that contributed to Borgo Egnazia’s achievement of the prestigious Best Hotel of the Year award in 2016.At The Savoy’s American Bar, Nicolas was a dedicated team member who shared a passion for contributing to their success, resulting in their well-deserved recognition as the World’s Best Bar in both 2017 and 2018.

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