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September 06, 2006

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Wow, the blurberry fields look cool - very much in keeping with the landscape.

Do all your blueberries come from 'wild' sources like this?

Yes, all our blueberries are wild. We either use North American Wild (which come from Nova Scotia, Canada and Maine, USA) or European Wild (which come from Poland).

I'm curious - how much of your fruit comes from local, organic sources? (Local to the country in which they're made, of course! :)) I love your smoothies and I do appreciate that there's a huge variety of fantastic fruit to be had from overseas, but do you support local growers too?

In terms of how we source our fruit, our commitment is to finding the best versions of the best varieties of fruit wherever they may be. But as a business we've agreed to pay a premium to always source some ingredients locally if the variety and quantity we need is available. For example, our apples are from Suffolk, our blackcurrants from Herefordshire, our yoghurt from Dorset. The majority of the non-UK fruit we use comes from within the EU, but obviously our tropical fruits come from further afield. It's pretty hard to source a banana or a mango locally. But we'll never use any fruit if it has to be air-freighted to get here.

In terms of whether the fruit is organic, again, ultimately our first loyalty is to the best tasting produce. So when we're sourcing ingredients, we don't actively specify organic or non-organic, we simply try everything and use whichever tastes the best. For example, we use an organic orange juice in our kids' oranges, mangoes and pineapples smoothie because we found it tastes better than the one we were originally using. But the lovely senga sengana strawberries we use in our strawberries and bananas smoothie happen not to be organic. Eitherway, we're committed to keeping our drinks free from harmful levels of pesticides and other chemical contaminants. We only ever use fruit which has been certified clean in terms of pesticides, and we spot-check the ingredients using independent laboratories. Furthermore our drinks were recently tested by the Pesticide Residue Committee (set up by the government to monitor pesticide levels in foods we eat) and again no residues at all were detected in any of our drinks.

Sorry if that answer was a bit long winded, but they're pretty complicated issues. I hope you're still awake.

I'm impressed by your committment to not air-freight any of your fruit. That's something you should shout louder about!

Could you talk more about this decision? Why do other companies air-freight fruit, for example? For speed of getting fruit onto shelves, or because it's somehow cheaper?

Frankie

Thanks Frankie. I'm adding the whole air freighting thing to the list of stuff-we-should-write-proper-posts about. Watch this space.

All the above is very interesting. I'd just like to comment that European 'blueberries' are a different species from Canadian/American ones, and should never be called blueberries - and never used to be. They are correctly called bilberries. They taste the same, but are a different species of the same genus -- well I think that is correct anyway -- as a one-time student of horticulture. It is a little matter that has been bugging me ever so slightly because of various claims on packaging recently. Further, I am sure most bilberries must be farmed anyway!

what about myrtles?

Hello Helen

We asked Rozanne (one of our fruit experts) and this is what she said:

Botanical classification is often very grey in terms of the terminology that is attached to species.

In summary: blueberries are all Vaccinium species. But there are some different genera:

In North America there are two key varieties - wild or 'lowbush'(creeps along the ground with underground rhizomes giving rise to uprights). The genera are Angustifolium and Myrtilloides.

In Europe you'll find a mixture of Corymbosum (aka northern highbush), which is a 4-6ft shrub; and there's also Myrtillus (aka European wild),
which has the same growth habit as North American varieties. This genus can also be called blueberry, blaeberry, hartberry, hurtleberry, wimberry, whortleberry...... and bilberry (take your pick).

Hence the confusion.

The crux is that blueberries, wherever grown, are known by a multitude of different 'names' - but all of the varieties above, which include the two that we use, are essentially blueberries.

Hope that all makes sense.

On your label of 'Innocent breakfast thickie' (yoghurt, oats, raspberries and blueberries), you say that 9 crushed raspberries is 12% of the drink and 30 crushed blueberries is 3%. That to me, indicates that 9 crushed raspberries is equivalent to 120 crushed blueberries(12/3 x 30). Is my maths correct - are the blueberries that small?

Hello Andrew

The wild blueberries that we use are a lot smaller than the ones that you're probably used to seeing in the shops. So when we squash them, they squash up small.

Hope that answers your maths puzzle.

Hi,

I'm an Innocent fan but beginning to feel ever so slightly that I'm part of a darned marketing campaign by you funky dudes.

You may be innocent but no matter which way you cut it, you aint as innocent as drinks suppliers who also just crsuh fruit - and are totally organic.

You say the reason you don't do the organic thing is because it's about taste. Well, I dunno ....It's not really the point is it?
Most organic fruit that I buy tastes pretty much the same as non-organic. Taste is not the reson most people buy organic.

The chemicals used in your fruits (by the way the reason why you'll not get so much residue in your drinks is because you need to peel a pineapple, banana etc to crush it ) are mashing up nature, killing wildlife, getting into water tables etc..... so they might not be in your fruit after you peel them but they are in the water I drink and the fish I eat. You're buying a gazillion kilos of non-organic fruit. Encouraging growers of non-organic fruit to keep on keeping on. What incentive are you giving them to stop using chemicals? C'mon guys - you're either part of the problem or part of the solution.

And I'd say that it's a choice thing. You choose to be part of that - or not. That old argument of you'r either in it or of it. And right now, given the amount of non-organic fruit you guys must buy, you're part of the problem not part of the solution. You all seem like decent guys and clever - that advertisng and top-style American management consultant background you guys had before you started this is the sort of clever business brains that surely can be put to sourcing , making and creatively selling at a profit crushed fruit smoothies, organically. It might mean a rise in your prices - which might man a few less people buy your products ...and you have a little less profit. But you'd still make some profit and you'd be doing a good thing and be part of natures solution - not problem.

Now that would be Innocent.

I remember a conversation I once had with a producer who told me how difficult it was to get his fruit & veg certified organic. He said his stuff was pesticide and GM free and still he hadn’t been able to get the Soil Association to give his produce the “organic” stamp.
So when my smoothie label tells me it’s got no GM stuff and no funny business, I believe it – and I’m happy to carry it back home together with my other organic purchases.
My decision to buy organic was based on “doing the right thing”. What I realised was organic fruit and veg from delivery boxes (or shops like Planet Organic and Fresh & Wild) taste way better than the non-organic from the supermarkets. Or the supermarket organics when it comes to that.
Actually the muddier the yummier.
So maybe it’s really got more to do with them being fresh than with being organic.
And if we’re talking about taste... I’ve tried some of the organic juices and smoothies on the market... nothing compares to innocent.
Not even the freshly squeezed & pressed ones!
:-)

Hello

Our aim is to make the best tasting drinks possible, and so we have to find the best tasting fruit. We don't use anything to enhance the taste of our drinks, so we have to rely on nature to do the business for us.

All of our fruit is pesticide residue tested, meaning that we make sure that it doesn't have any nasty stuff whatsoever sprayed on it. This pesticide residue testing means that we make sure it's free from the same bad stuff that organic farming strives to avoid.

We drink the drinks ourselves, by the gallon, and I personally have no interest in imbibing bad stuff. Over the years I've drunk hundreds of smoothies, and if I thought for one moment that they were going to do me bad, I wouldn't be drinking any more of them. We started our business to do things on our terms, to make great drinks without compromise and to be transparent about the way we do it. We'll continue to try to do so.

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