|Founder(s)||Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright|
Innocent Drinks is a company that makes smoothies, juice and veg pots, sold in supermarkets, coffee shops and various other outlets. The company sells over two million smoothies per week. Innocent is over 90% owned by The Coca-Cola Company.
Innocent was founded by three Cambridge University graduates: Richard Reed , Adam Balon and Jon Wright, then working in consulting and advertising. The three were friends at St John's College, Cambridge. In 1999, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London. People were asked to put their empty bottles in a 'yes' or 'no' bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the 'YES' bin was full, with only three cups in the 'NO' bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned. After quitting their jobs, the three struggled to find investment, but eventually had a lucky break when Maurice Pinto, a wealthy American businessman, decided to invest £250,000. In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to taking the product to market.
On 6 April 2009, Innocent Drinks announced on its website an agreement to sell a stake of 10-20% to The Coca-Cola Company, with the three founders retaining operational control for £30 million. Their website was bombarded with customer feedback and several pages on social networking sites emerged that encouraged a boycott of the company. In April 2010, Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% from 18% for about £65 million. In February 2013 Coca-Cola increased their stake to over 90%, leaving the three founders with a small minority holding.
Innocent credit the creation of their brand identity to David Streek (aka Gravy), the design director at Deepend, which also developed their early label designs and website. Before settling on the name "innocent", the product was going to be called Fast Tractor. The company's HQ, Fruit Towers, is now in Ladbroke Grove.
Smoothies are Innocent's primary product. The Innocent smoothie consists of whole crushed fruit and juices, but other ingredients such as carrots and ginger have been used in some drinks. A smoothie also counts towards two of the 5 a day as a 250ml smoothie contains at least one portion of whole crushed fruit (80g) and one portion of juice (150ml).
Innocent also makes smoothies in little bottles and bigger cartons; smoothies, fruit tubes and juice for kids; a not-from-concentrate juice range including orange (smooth and with bits); apple; tropical; apple & raspberry; orange & mango; apple, peach & pear; apple & berry; and apple & mango, and veg pots, a range of ready meals.
innocent heavily promotes in its marketing that it "gives 10% of its profits to charity", and the majority of this goes to the innocent foundation, a UK-registered charity that gives grants to NGOs, typically in the form of three-year partnerships. It was set up in 2004 and its aim is to help the world's hungry. It supports four projects under this aim, including sustainable agriculture projects, UK food poverty and emergency relief. innocent has donated over £4 million to the innocent foundation since its registration in 2004 which has meant the foundation has helped 530,000 people so far through 47 different projects.
During Innocent's expansion phases, they made no profit, whilst still building up the company and the shareholders' value, before their sale to Coca Cola. In the non-profit years, innocent did chose to make an arbitrary token donation to the foundation. In truth, innocent do not always donate the money even whey they make a profit. The company retains money to fund its own operations (because it's cheaper or more accessible than a bank loan) instead of passing the money to the foundation.
In October 2005 there were several reports of Innocent smoothies "exploding". In 2007, Innocent recalled 100,000 bottles, stating that the explosions were caused by a natural fermentation of the ingredients.
In October 2007 Innocent was warned by the Advertising Standards Authority for making unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of their "superfoods" smoothies stating that their claims could not be backed up by medical science and ordering Innocent to not repeat them.
In 2007 the European Union passed a new law, that would take effect from 2009, which required companies labelling their products as "superfoods" to justify statements that their products are "superfoods", "healthy" or "good for you". Currently Innocent still uses the word "superfruit" in their marketing.
On 27 May 2011 the Daily Mail reported that the company had held back money that was intended for the Innocent Foundation. The reporter said: "Analysis of its financial records has revealed £520,000 intended for the foundation was kept in the company’s bank account, where it could collect a higher rate of interest. Innocent – which since last year is now majority owned by Coca-Cola – has not donated to the foundation for the past three years as it has made no profits". Richard Reed responded: “'The foundation is run by independent experts ... and it was legally audited. The money was kept in that account at their request, within financial regulations, and they benefited from it. They could have taken the money out at any time.” From 2011 onwards, the company committed to give a minimum of £250,000 to the innocent foundation in years when there is no profit made, to allow its work to continue. In 2013, the company increased this annual commitment to £950,000 per year for the next five years.
- "Coke buys into Innocent smoothies". BBC News. 7 April 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- Tryhorn, Chris (7 April 2009). "Smoothie operators Innocent tread familiar path to lucrative deal". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- Growing Business Video: Richard Reed on struggling to find investment
- Northedge, Richard (12 April 2009). "Slaughter of the Innocent? Or is Coke the real deal?". London: independent.co.uk. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
- Steele, Francesca (9 April 2010). "CocaCola takes a bigger slice of Innocent". The Times (London). Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- Neate, Rupert (23 Feb 2013). "Coca-Cola takes full control of Innocent". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 Feb 2013.
- innocent (April 2009). A Book About Innocent: Our Story and Some Things We've Learned. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-7181-5317-0.
- "Fruit And Veg Portions", Innocent Drinks, 2010, retrieved 4 December 2010
- Watson, Donna (22 October 2005). "YOU'VE BEEN MANGOED". dailyrecord.co.uk. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
- "Fruit smoothies are a real blast.". Europe Intelligence Wire. 19-JAN-07. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
- "Innocent Smoothies found guilty of making false health claims".
- Daily Mail - Prove 'superfoods' are good for you, supermarkets told, By Beth Hale (30 June 2007)
- Daily Mail, Innocent accused over charity 'con': Smoothie giant 'failed to hand over promised cash' - by Tamara Cohen, 27 May 2011
- innocent drinks Home Page
- Interview with innocent
- Richard Reed talks ethics, products and staff retention