|Founders||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.
In 2007 McDonalds began a 5 year trial of using Innocent smoothies as part of their Happy Meals. Feedback from customers led McDonalds to drop the product in 2012.
Revenue for the company declined in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis which led to an overall loss of £8.6m.
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. As a result of the takeover Ethical Consumer magazine reduced their ethical rating for 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 say their brand identity is nothing less than their entire business, everything from the products to the adverts, how they answer the "banana phone" to the way they interact with customers. Before settling on the name "innocent", the brand 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. Innocent also makes smoothies, fruit tubes and juice for kids; a not-from-concentrate juice range; and noodle pots and veg pots, a range of ready meals.
Innocent launched a new range of 'super smoothies' in March 2014.
Innocent gives 10% of its profits to charity, the majority of which goes to the Innocent foundation, a UK registered charity set up in 2004.
The Innocent foundation’s aim is to help the world’s hungry by providing grants to charities and projects helping communities on a sustainable path to a better life where they can escape poverty and hunger. The Innocent foundation provides funding for four different types of project to help the world’s hungry: seed funding, local food poverty, breakthrough development and emergency relief. Since the foundation was set up it has given over £2.4m to 55 projects, helping reach over 530,000 people.
Innocent's products have been promoted as a healthy option. However, A 250ml bottle of ‘Innocent Smoothie’ contains 171 calories and 34.3g of sugar. This is equivalent to 3 and a half ‘Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Donuts.”
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, which took effect from 2009, requiring 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.
In 2008 a report accused the company of making false claims by stating that their product was transported solely by boat or rail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when they were in fact trucked over hundreds of miles from the continent. Innocent's website stated that their drinks were "made in the countryside" whereas they were actually imported from the Netherlands. The company stated that the information on their website was out of date and misleading statements would be removed promptly.
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.
Health and Safety
In 2014 the Gerber Juice Company which manufactures Innocent smoothies was fined £80,000 for errors which resulted in the death of an employee at their factory in Llantrisant, South Wales. Gerber pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety laws. Gavin Bedford had been dismantling machinery at the plant when he was struck by falling pipework, an accident which resulted in his death. No risk assessment or detailed plans for removing the pipework had been produced and the supervisor who was overseeing the operation was not qualified for demolition projects and had not received any relevant health and safety training related to the task. Liam Osborne, an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive stated that there had been a basic failure to plan, manage and monitor.
- "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
- 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.
- 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