A Return To Innocence

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 109 months ago
A Return To Innocence

Image by 'stpiduko'
Innocent, the ethically-minded smoothie company founded in 1998 by four mates after a successful try-out at a music festival with £500 worth of fruit, has sold a segment of its business to Coca-Cola for £30 million. The Shepherds Bush-based company hopes to use the cash to expand its operations into Europe.

Another homegrown starlet sells out, eh? Boo-urns! Let's smash the seats and throw our smoothie bottles in the landfill to protest! But before we do that, we should consider that Coca-Cola's stake is a mere 10% of the business, not a controlling interest, and that the bigger firm apparently has no interest in bandying its name around — recognising that for Innocent, being strongly associated with a company accused of union murders in Colombia and alleged Nazi links wouldn't be good for business.

Then there's Innocent's much-heralded environmentalism, which boasts of using 100% recycled material in its (plastic) bottles, being "resource-efficient" and worrying about their carbon footprint. Laudable concerns, and thoroughly bragged about over at their website, but as the Guardian points out, "shipping manufactured juices in plastic bottles around Europe in vans [isn't] exactly planet-loving".

Fans of their drink (including many at Londonist) should be pleased that a home-grown company is expanding during a recession, and not be overly concerned at a deal that is more felicitous booster than Faustian bargain.

Last Updated 07 April 2009


It's really difficult to be pleased because my knee-jerk reactionist impulse is to arc up at the Coca Cola link. McDonald's affects me in the same way. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is good luck to them but I'll remain quietly sceptical and wait to be proven wrong on the 'Coca Cola association automatically = evil' thing.


It's easy to react against Coca Cola because they're a big company, and I am lucky in that I just don't like Coca Cola so I don't have to suffer any ethical dialemma, but it is just fizzy pop and fruit juice. I bet it must've been a big decision for Innocent, not least selling part of the company they love, but ultimately it's like Dragon's Den. They want to expand but lack the expertise and distribution networks.

Pret-a-Manger famously part-sold to McDonalds a few years ago and have since bought back that stake, and I think that's good for maintaining independent British business and British brands.

I just hope this Innocent/ Coke partnership is a positive sign and doesn't see Innocent overexposing themselves and going bust down the line. Their current business model is, after all, so brilliant ... £2.50+ for some fruit in a bottle. I wish I'd thought of that.