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April 16, 2009

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That open letter from mark Thomas is here.

http://www.markthomasinfo.com/

Important to see that some of Richard's arguments defending Coke (re independent judicial enquiries) are not based on facts.

There's some really horrific stories about what Coke gets up to and I don't think Richard's arguments veneer over them convincingly.

I didn't believe the news when I heard it - and interestingly, none of the people I've told believed it either, as Coke is so far from what Innocent stands for. I'm so disappointed- it's not just that Coke is unhealthy, it's the ethical issues too, as other posters have said (in particular for me the issues raised in Mark Thomas's TV programme last year about Columbia).
I've been a fan of Innocent for years, have come to every Fruitstock and village fete, and thought, up to now, you epitomised the kind of company I'd want to work for, but I think you've sold 10% of your soul.
It was good to see the responses from Rich, but like other people, I would like an answer to the question of what's in it for Coke if they don't get any profits.

Ooops... from reading the above it seems like you guys might need to spend a large chunk of that £30m expanding your PR budget.

I was a tad frustrated by your answer as to whether Coke will get any of your profits - in my humble opinion so long as you don't go bust in the meantime there will, as night follows day, come a time when you will pay a dividend; let's face it the board of coke would be hauled over the coals by it's investors for breach of their fiduciary duties if they knowingly invested in a company which never intended to pay a dividend on the shareholding (and then keep doing so) one day. I should imagine they also hope to benefit from a growth in your company value providing a tasty Return on their Investment irrespective of any short/medium term dividends. Perhaps your explantion could be rephrased?

Hello

There seems to be some consternation about what exactly Coke is getting out of the deal. As we've pointed out before, they won't be receiving a dividend, nor a percentage of profits.

They have simply made an investment. Like all investments, they hope it will increase in value, just like when you buy a house and you hope it'll be worth more when you come to sell it. They hope that their £30M will be worth more in a few years time.

That is of course dependent on our business being worth more, and like it says at the end of those adverts, the value of your investment may go up as well as down. So Coke hope that our business grows, just like we hope it grows.

We'll be posting a full page of FAQs tomorrow on the site, which will cover this and some of the other areas raised in this thread.

80% innocent is not innocent

Indeed, I'd suggest 20% guilty and 80% jury still out.

Will Coke be able to influence decisions about the running of 'innocent'?

Have Coke placed any restrictions on the sale of shares in 'innocent'?

Can the founders give a commitment to not sell shares that would enable Coke to achieve a controlling stake in 'innocent'?

Very Poor! Look how you have disappionted so many people. You have proven yourselves to be truly innocent in terms of how you viewed the opinions of your loyal customers and their respect for your former stance.
But hey coke are distributers/dealers.

Your three reasons for choosing Coca-Cola are: 1) you like the people, 2) cash without conditions and 3) they can help you 'accelerate' the business. What I'd like to know is why you didn't ask the most important stakeholders of all, your customers, a great deal of whom probably actively chose innocent as they wouldn't dream of touching a tainted (health and morals-wise) drink such as Coca-Cola.Any chance of a re-think?

This is up there with Gerald Ratner isn't it? I previously had a degree of respect for the Innocent team. I think they've shot themselves in the foot here. I used to buy innocent because I don't like companies like coke. Unionbusting, waterstealing, prspinning, society damaging, overpowerful corporate dinosaurs. Say no to Coke, Say no to innocent.

It feels like you're trying hard to put rational argument on an irrational process - which is what buying a smoothie is.

If I buy an Innocent smoothie (which I used to do almost daily, and have not done once since the Coke announcement - sorry) it was because I liked the brand. It was fun, it was ethical and it was charming. If I *just* wanted a nice smoothie, I could buy loads of other smoothies.

The involvement of Coke, no matter how efficiently you argue it, interferes with my love for the brand, because I don't like their brand. Sorry - there's no logical reason, I just don't.

My god. Any respect I had for you guys is utterly gone. I've admired your company since you started. You need to do your homework on Coke. They are a nasty bunch. All I can sy is that not another drop of Innocent smoothie will ever pass my lips. Check out Mark Thomas's reply to your unfounded and quite frankly crap response. He has done his homework. You should have done yours, you are no better than bankers. Shame on you.

Hello

Here are some answers to more of the questions you've been asking:

What could the Coca-Cola executive on the Investment Board do if they weren't happy with a proposal made by the founders?

The Investment Board is not involved in the operational decision making of the business; that is the remit of our Executive Board, which Coca Cola do not have a seat on.

Why did innocent not attempt to secure some of the investment from customers?

The only way you could do this legally would be via a public flotation and issue shares via the stock market. We didn't want to do this as it would be complicated, time consuming and expensive.

Have Coke made any conditions of the deal that might be restrictive to innocent either currently or in the future?

No. We'd never have signed any deal that would have meant we didn't have 100% control over how innocent works in the future.

Is being scared of what Coke might do to you if you pull out causing you any problems as a company?

Not at all. We made this decision with our eyes wide open, so there's nothing to fear.

If Coke aren't getting any of the profits, then what is in it for them?

It's an investment. And like all investments, they hope it will increase in value, just like when you buy a house or a fancy painting.

Hey Dan at Innocent - thanks for answering the easy questions. Yet again you seem to be dodging the slightly harder questions as put to Richard in an open letter from Mark Thomas, quite a while ago now. Again, if you'd done the research you say, it should be the matter of moments to disprove his claims...unless your research consisted of little more than asking Coke if they were a nice company to do business with?

James pretty much sums it up, above. It seems ironic that the company may well go down the crapper due to being 'innocent' enough to believe that a company like Coke would be happy to be a silent partner and not look to take over at some point in the future. This is obviously absurd.
Very sad to see another independent company falling into the hands of a zero integrity 'bad health mongering' multi-national with no integrity like Coke.

I buy Innocent for the great taste and the humour, so I want it to stay in my life! So what if the investors are a less ethical company- they only have 10-20%! Anything that means that innocent isn't going to go bankrupt sounds good to me.
Lighten up, people!

If anything these videos have made things worse. It seems Coke wants to know a few of Innocents secrets and I'm sure the folk at innocent will eagerly hand them over ... doh!
The one answer that made me laugh was when asked the reason for choosing coke ... "we liked the people" - does anyone else see this as ridiculous??? They were just a few people representing coke .. turning on a bit of charm to secure the investment - how can a sound business decision be based on that? On hearing the news I've not bought anymore "innocent" products and the remaining ones in my fridge just don't taste as good anymore. These videos have reinforced my decision to keep away from innocent.

1 litre Innocent Strawberry & Banana = £2.98

1 litre Tesco Strawberry & Banana = £1.84

Simply choose Tesco's product and donate the balance to a charity of your choice. I accept that Tesco are not miles more ethical than Coke, but if you buy from them they benefit from the sale of either product. So why not opt for the cheaper one and let a charity benefit from more money than Innocent would donate, presumably less than 20p in this case.

The only disadvantage with doing this is possibly that Tesco's ingredients are sourced in a less ethical manner than Innocent's.

Just a thought anyway. I certainly will not be buying Innocent again as I cannot take the brand seriously any more. But respect for allowing these posts on your website!!

well well well.....
unfortunately it seems like most of the former innocent purchases were made by people with more IQ than a kiwi fruit, and even the smooth talking plum mouthed boys cant pull the banana skin over our eyes. Coca Cola's a good company??? Read up and be moral, you have sold out, and we all know it. No longer will i be grabbing a fresh carton of innocent smoothie for my trolley, because your far from innocent anymore, just greedy and dirty in the pockets of the most evil company of our generation....good luck,and the best of british to you!!

I'm amazed at the amount of 'knowledge' people have regarding business of this magnitude. A thorough understanding of corporate investment and company growth strategy are really required before fully understanding this type of investment. At this point in a company's growth there are 2 options available - stay as you are, or grow into new markets, which requires investment as growth costs. If you stay as you are, you run a risk of slowing growth or worse, a decrease. The investment option is a sensible one to take on new markets, and for any business investment the investor is hugely important. A drinks investor makes absolute sense as a strategic alliance.

I do believe that no investment by a large corporate changes the values of Innocent. Coca cola are here to stay whether we agree with them or not, and what better than for them to fund the growth of an ethical company? A far better option than coca cola raising their own 'Innocent'....

I know a little about body language and know when someone is not comfortable with what they're saying - I see that in the video clips. Rich, are your hands really that interesting to look at? Or your face that itchy? Maybe you can now employ a spin doctor?
You have sold your soul and it will come back to bite you

I take it that all the complainers on here stay at home, grow their own vegetables, never consider travelling in case they expand their footprint, don't own a car, don't ever shop at a major supermarket, recyle EVERYTHING and have never had a soft drink.

Let innocent be and accept life is not perfect; they are still doing more than almost every other UK business to do things right.

No more Innocent Products for my family- I'm not so stupid as to believe Coco-Cola gave you 30M out of the goodness of their hearts - of course they want control - remember "softly, softly catch your monkey".

Bye bye innocent.

Thank you for all your smoothies.

Don't be too greedy with your money.

Bye bye Innocent.

Thank you for your smoothies.

Dont be too greedy with money.

Another day drifts by, still no answers to the fairly direct questions from Mr Thomas.

Here's a hint chaps: you'll have a big file marked "Due Diligence"...now you told us that as part of that process you addressed the moral and ethical concerns about Coke. So it's dead easy, just pop up a summary onto the blog.

Unless of course, the only information you have about that is what Coke told you? But surely you'll have done a BIT more research than just asking them?

And Coke should be able to help you out. They'll have a big file marked "libel action against Mark Thomas and Channel Four" which will be stuffed with evidence to mount a case...ummm...except they don't seem to have done, which means he might have just hit upon some difficult truths.

Put us out of our misery. Admit you were so desperate for investment you were prepared to compromise whatever business ethics actually still exist at Innocent - but stop insulting us by trying to convince us Coke is whiter-than-white and pretending you don't understand just why your former customers are so cheesed off.

In regards to Jon's point about body language...

Yeah, he probably was a bit nervous. He's gone on camera to put across his side of the story to so many people who are slating him, his business decision, his company (which is, let's face it, something's he's built up from scratch)... I'd be nervous in his position.

Whilst I can't say that you're wrong in your interpretation of his body language you can't say you're right either - there are alternatives.

The naivety of the innocent directors is beyond belief.

I am a loyal and longstanding customer. A year ago I looked at the 2006 accounts for Innocent Ltd and raised my eyebrows when I saw that a dividend of £4.5 million had been paid and the directors had been paid £425K via Fresh Trading Ltd, the holding company.

In the 2007 accounts they have paid themselves dividends of £13.87 million and total salaries of £670K.

Yet on 6/4/09 the "letter from the founders" tells us that the "desert island will just have to wait". I feel sure that £18m+ will buy a decent island.

Rich tells us above that they have sold "just under 20%" to Coke yet "there are no plans to pay any dividend to Coke". This can only be achieved if Innocent/Fresh Trading does not pay any further dividends to any of the shareholders. I find this very difficult to believe.

And they have sold to Coke because "we really liked the people we met; honest and smart". Despite the founders' Cambridge education they might not have heard of the Trojan Horse.

The founders of Innocent have engineered a deceit of the highest order and, like the bankers and politicians of the last decade, we have been utterly suckered.

Never ever again.

Did you take business advice on this move from Gerald Ratner?

and Eve said to Adam:

would you like a bite of this apple?

I think we should wait to see how this pans out before we judge too harshly. Coke are a terrible company, but innocent are a great one, and if they can innocent coke even slightly, without becoming corrupt, the world will be a better place for this investment deal.

Weak responses for a strong issue, don't you think?
It is quite simple. By becoming involved with a company that is by no means as ethical as yourselves, you are treating your loyal customers as something that could be lost.
Clearly, you would prefer a market share of people who don't know about this deal. These people are, incidentally, the same people who can only mouth off 'Coke' when asked what they want to drink.


HELLO FOUNDERS! You seem to have been very quiet recently! Putting the difficult Coke questions aside (we'll continue to wait for what should be easy answers), Mark Adams raises some very interesting points above.

If he's accurate in his reading of your accounts, why could the seemingly large amount of value which has left Innocent's accounts in frankly pretty obscene salaries and dividends (while apparently your staff are underpaid in return for getting to work for such a "great" company) not have been used for growth and investment?

If Mark (oops, another Mark asking difficult questions) is right nearly £20m has been paid out at a time you're claiming Innocent is so hard up it needs to go to Coke for investment. Surely redirecting some of your wealth back into the company would have meant you would have only needed a third of the cash you've got from Coke...which might have been easier to get from two or three, ethical and morally responsible sources?

Wow, its sad to see the company end this way. You may have funded your U.S invasion with this deal but you will lose your loyal fans back home as a result.

I refuse to believe that you are unaware of Cokes history when it comes to its breaches of human rights. No amount of speeches from yourselves will change our view of them, or now by association yourselves.

If you were so desperate for cash why diddnt you atleast try and sell shares to the people you like to refer to as "family" Im sure a lot of your loyal customers would have loved to hold a stake in your future.

Ok, it's a little off topic here but you guys should try playing all of the videos at once. It's really trippy :-)

I recently completed a case study on innocent as part of my marketing honours and one of the things we considered was where innocent could get funding for expansion into Europe. My entire class agreed that having involvement from Coca-Cola (we considered them due to the Pepsi/Tropicana competition) and everyone agreed this would dilute the brand value, as has been proven by the response i've read so far.

If they need investment to expand, surely they could have found private investors?

However, I agree with the arguements that innocent are still ethical and a boycott will only serve to prove the theory that ethics aren't profitable. Therefore, I will continue to buy innocent smoothies. BUT, I will be keeping my eye on developments and should coca-cola invest further I will immediately boycott all innocent products.

I am a bag fan of innocent and all they have done, I hope they do not sell out, it will be a tragic loss to ethical business if they do.

@Gazz and the other posters claiming a boycott will only prove "ethics aren't profitable", consider this:

The very fact that Innocent has been forced to partly sell out to Coke proves their ethics aren't profitable (enough). it shows that ultimately the little guys, trying to make a difference, have to give up their ideals and run to the big boys eventually.

And if Innocent doesn't see a drop in sales as a result of the Coke involvement, it also proves a very important point to Coke and the other large, unethical (or at best ethical for PR value) corporations...when it comes down to it, consumers don't really care that much about ethical or green companies. When it actually comes to the crunch we'll say "well, it still tastes nice and I like the cute boxes, so I'll keep mindlessly buying it". It proves that we'll swallow down as much feel-good greenwash as they can put into recycled cartons.

This is the third time I have left a comment here - it appears it keeps getting 'removed'??? hmmmm....?

I think James (above) sums it up well. This is how these corps do business, isn't it?

The 'innocent' bit here seems to be the apparent naivety of the company - do they really think that Coke are gonna be happy to be a silent partner for ever? Oh please...

Hello Kev

All of your comments are still up here. We haven't removed any of them.

Hmmm...my comment in the birthday thread does seem to have been censored though.

My mistake. According to an email I've just had:

"While we don’t take any great pleasure in doing this we want the comments feature of our blog to be a useful one, where people can comment on each relevant story with relevant comments. We can’t just let the latest blog post’s comments become a shoutbox for people to say whatever they fancy. To us at least, that would be the equivalent of our blog being graffitied.

As you know, we’ve recently given lots of airtime along with free &open speech to all of the comments about the recent news involving Coca Cola. You are more than welcome to update the two blog posts dedicated to this subject (below) with your comments and thoughts on an ongoing basis.

If you have any very specific questions you still feel aren’t being addressed you might want contact our peoples champions on hello@innocentdrinks.co.uk who are here to directly help with all our consumer questions and issues.

Hope this all sounds OK."

Heaven forbid - people being allowed to say what they fancy!

Freedom of speech, but only in limited places apparently - and hopefully coralled where it won't scare off any potential customers unaware of the deal.

Nice job guys.

@ Matthew Fry: what was the alternative then for you on your travels? Please share if this other smoothie company also donate 10% of their profits, source sustainable and use 100% recycled pet-bottles.

Curious now.

@Simon. As I've posted already, Morrisons have something called 100% Natural and do a pomegranate, blueberry and acai smoothie (amongst others) for about half the price of Innocent. Ingredients are all not-from-concentrate. Not sure about "sustainability" but then again, is there now a smoothie maker which is untainted for the "ethical" shopper"? I put 50p of the money I saved on that particular smoothie into the collection shaker of a blind gentleman standing by the supermarket door, so way more than Innocent's 10 per cent. I also put the carton into the recycling, but don't know if it was recycled in the first place - I'll see what I can see on the carton next time.

Then again, even Tropicana makes some impressive sustainable and recyling claims on its smoothies and from the look of a colleagues' cartons in our work fridge, have been doing the "pull-less" cap for some time (how come it took Innocent nine months of development?) - does this make Tropicana a good thing to buy?

With Innocent now tainted I'd suggest it makes little difference which smoothie you now buy. If you choose not to by Innocent just donate some of the money you save to charity to redress the balance. Chances are you'll end up donating a lot more per carton than Innocent.

Thanks for paying so much attention to my posts...seems weeks ago I mentioned travelling and smoothie drinking!

@Simon again. If you do Facebook, do a search for a group called Innocent Smoothies - give back Coca-Cola's dirty money. Some suggestions on the discussion board about possible alternatives, although seems sadly all are compromises of some sort.

I also grabbed a few bottled smoothies from Waitrose recently which seemed to have good ingredients and sustainable credentials, so might be worth a look (again, not sure about the packaging but as I'm sure you know recycled/recyclable packing has its own problems anyway, so you can never be sure you're doing the right thing!).

Hahaha sometime the tail does wag the dog! I've never heard that before, I'm so going to use that in a sentence later today!!!

Come on enough now. Give Innocent a break. They are a commercial business with ethical values. Let their actions in sustainability leadership going forward speak for itself. All this ethical grandstanding from the anti-Coke brigade is getting tiresome.

Gutted too. I don't feel so warm and fluffy about the brand now.

I'd have happily bought shares. But wasn't given the option.

Time will tell whether I continue to buy the smoothies. I haven't yet.

Guys,

As some people have said, you've lost a bit of your innocence, but I kinda understand that to grow you've got to get some big backers to bring the dream to life. As long as you and the business remain committed to your values, rather than just a brand 'wrapper', then good luck to ya!

@Belinda. Apologies if we're boring you!

Seeing as Innocent are limiting any anti-Innocent comments to just the one, or two blog postings now, it means it's dead easy for you to avoid us tiresome grandstanders. Just don't look at those blog postings. If you don't care about the Coke deal, why would you be bothering to scroll through two pages of comments anyway?

And if you don't care about Innocent's compromised ethics and the deal with Coke doesn't give you pause for thought - and you're perfectly entitled to that opinion - then stick to the "happy birthday...we're great" posts...you'll be much happier in your ignorance.

matthew: get a life, please

I'm sorry but saying this debate is tired, or boring and that the people who are trying to raise awareness about Coke's malpractices need to 'get a life' is really quite distasteful.

The point we are trying to make is that Coke is not ethical. And we are not talking about the fact their bottles aren't recycled. We are talking about human rights. Union busting. Child labour. Scandalaous wages and working conditions. Intimidation. Lack of transparency. Environmental abuse.

I'm sorry if that's tedious, I can't imagine what you'd find more interesting than human rights.

Innocent are obviously just going to go quiet in this now, and thus making people who keep trying to debate the Coke angle look relentless, and ruining everyone's fun.

Well I'm sorry about that. I don't know what definition of 'ethical' Innocent are using, but on my moral spectrum there is nothing more important than human rights, and debating it is essential, for the sake of the people in countries where Coke has abused their human rights who can't afford to speak out and can't afford to defend themselves.

Turning a blind eye is a luxury.

@Natalie - eloquently and elegantly put, without restorting to personal attack in place of reasoned argument.

If only some other people here could take some notice!

Well said Matthew & Natalie,
There will be many who don't really care much about ethics & are happy to pay over the odds for a nicely packaged fashionable smoothie. However many others bought 'innocent' smoothies largely because of their supposed ethical stance.

Those interested in keeping a critical eye on 'innocent', e.g. to evaluate whether they keep to ethical claims, may be interested in joining the facebook group ' Innocent Smoothies - give back Coca-Cola's dirty money '

Precisely. To trade off an ethical reputation is a dishonest thing for innocent to do now.

That money from Coke is as much an ingredient in their smoothies as the bananas are - and they go to a lot of trouble to check where they came from, but not where the £30m comes from.

As Amnesty International said about Coke: if their product was tainted or contaminated by a chemical or some rogue ingredient and people got sick, they would have to do something about it. But if an ingredient is tainted by human rights abuse, it seems Coke are happy to do nothing.
Innocent are now in that bracket.

I am very keen to keep this debate alive, and will do so in every arena I can, and I hope others will too. What is important is that the Innocent brand is now associated with Coke, the sugary, chemical filled drink, made by, and bottled by, people in the third world, from ingredients that are sometimes harvested by children. It is important that Innocent are associated with that by reputation.

@M Fry:

You obviously feel very strongly about this subject. Which, of course you are entirely entitled to. I do however think that you are being short sighted in complaining that innocent is limiting this debate to two blog posts on THEIR website. A website that they keep updated and pay for themselves.

They have allowed free and fair debate on this subject but for you to highjack unrelated posts just to get your point across is not fair.

If you feel as strongly as you do, why don't you start, pay for, and run your very own website dedicated to this subject.

Until such time, I really think you look incredibly petty criticising innocent for wanting to get on with their business on their own website.

@Sara. To be fair, Innocent pay for and maintain this website using money provided by you and all the other consumers of their products. We're not talking about some sort of charitable enterprise. If the website didn't make them money and help their marketing, it wouldn't be here - I'd suggest it's you being myopic if you don't see that.

Thankfully, there are lots of people who do care as much (in fact a lot more) than I do about this subject and have done exactly what you suggest. A quick google search, or even just a browse of the debate here, will turn up links to them.

However, those sites, or indeed any site I could set up, would not be capable of making sure Innocent customers understand what they are buying into when they now pick up a carton. For many, unless they read about the deal and its implications here, they have no idea that things have changed and they *may* not be paying for what they thought they were paying for.

Innocent have indeed been very good in allowing the debate to continue here - but I suspect some of that is because they're very bright PR people and clever enough to work out that any sign of censorship would confirm the worst fears of many customers about Coke's influence.

I'm very sorry you feel I'm petty. To blatantly paraphrase Natalie above: I'm sorry you find that petty. I can't imagine something less petty than human rights.

I'm also sorry you feel you have to resort to trying to demean me, rather than my argument, to make your point.

I'd far prefer it if you made some reasoned points about why the Coke deal is a good thing for Innocent and doesn't alter its ethical appeal, rather than make points about my pettiness, or otherwise.

@ M Fry

I agree with Sara’s point about you complaining about “censorship”… I can’t think of any other companies that would allow you to express yourself the way you have with this degree of freedom on their own website? And actually this is the kind of free debate they have always encouraged, positive or negative, so I don’t see any Coke influence here.

Personally, I prefer to take a less black and white moral view of the World. I don’t think Coke are inherently an unethical company because when you consider how many hundreds of thousands of people they employ across the World it’s inevitable there are some bad eggs in there who have done things that have negatively impacted Coke’s reputation, but the majority are good people. Regardless of their motives Coke have also had a positive social impact in places. As for the product itself, sure it’s not the healthiest but I don’t think we’re under any illusions - it’s a question of choice. They sell more than £1bn of soft drinks a year in the UK alone so apparently some people like it.

As for innocent, they have an awesome record on ethics and health so if the investment drives more of this then good luck to them. I don’t care much for Coke but I trust the work innocent do, so the money will do more good in their hands than Coke’s. I’m confident innocent won’t change the way they do things and looking back in a year’s time will prove this.

If you read my above comment properly you will see that I made absolutely no reference to your feelings and opinions on the Coke matter. I am all for free speech.

The comment was rather aimed at your previous statements that innocent was not allowing more than two blog posts on this subject, not about the debate itself. I put forward no opinion of my sentiments towards the deal whatsoever.

You seem to have made it your mission to keep everyone updated on this whole situation. Good for you. Don't try to take over innocent's website. Yes, they use the money from selling their smoothies to keep it up and running... I thought that was obvious, where else would they get it from?

Regardless of your viewpoint that they blogposts have been allowed for 'clever PR reasons'. They have been allowed.

They certainly shouldn't have to keep posting blogs everyday about the deal. It was done, they have answered as many questions as they can (a lot more than a lot of companies would have done).

You indeed may continue to post reply afetr reply on this thread, and I have no doubt that innocent will continue to allow you to.

To demand that they keep posting fresh blogs about this issue and then get grumpy when they don't do what you ask is the petty behaviour that I was referring to (as opposed to having an opinion about human rights etc.)

If it upsets you so much. I suggest you take your own advice, google all these other sites you are talking about and start posting on those. No doubt they will allow you countless new posts for you to comment on all you like.

@Sara

I'm not sure what I personally have done to anger you so much and attract this individual attention. All I can say is Innocent are lucky to have a customer prepared to defend them so passionately.

This thread currently runs to almost 200 posts. Check back and you'll see I'm by no means the only one making negative comments about Innocent and Coke. I'm also by no means the most extreme to have posted views. I'm not the only one asking, perfectly reasonably, if Innocent will answer questions put to them, which are central to the whole Coke deal.

Do you think all of the other posters making very similar points to mine are "petty" or "grumpy"?

I may have recently had a bigger share of postings than others - but that's primarily because people have started to directly address me and I'm replying. This is one of them.

If Innocent continue to be happy to tolerate this discussion, that's great - we can continue to have a debate. But I think any useful debate is going to flounder if you continue to make it more about the people involved in the debate, rather than the issues themselves.

@Sara.

Sorry, forgot to add.

I posted two, or maybe three comments outside of this thread. One of those was deleted and once that had happened, and Ted had emailed me to explained why Innocent would prefer I restricted negative comments about the Coke deal to this thread, I have not attempted to post anywhere else.

I think to accuse me of trying to "take over Innocent's website" is very unfair hyperbole.

Again, I'd ask why you're specifically targeting me - when both investment threads are full of people with negative comments about the deal - many made using far stronger language and accusations?

It is Innocent's website, and they can do what they like with it. It's true that most companies probably wouldn't have a discussion thread like this one on their site, but then most companies don't market themselves as uber-ethical and transparent either.

Innocent are definitely avoiding answering the trickier questions about specific allegations to do with Coke, probably because they don't know the answers - their "due dilligence" hasn;t served them very well it seems. I have had an e-mail from an innocent employee saying he didn;t know much about it - yet he is obviously put in charge of answering consumer e-mails. Genius.

I suggest people who feel strongly about this post on as many sites as they can and tell as many people as they can. This thread is well and good, but it is too contained and it is under Innocent's noses.

Until Innocent have anything useful to say about this, and have done some research that they are prepared to share with their consumers that disproves allegations about Coke, or alternatively explain why they are content to take the money knowing it is potentially contaminated with human rights abuses - then they are fair game.

I have written a post about brand reputation on the facebook discussion page

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Ftinyurl.com%2Fckn9er&h=b048919b3adea8c4ee78a6587fda722f

and am happy to talk about it via e-mail natfern7@hotmail.com


@Zak.

Absolutely. Innocent have decided, for whatever reason, to allow debate to continue on their own site.

If they're prepared to accept people posting a wide variety of opinions, I'm not sure why individual posters (well, poor little me mainly) are now getting attacked for doing exactly that...posting our opinion. I've no issue with people debating the issues, but it does seem to have turned rather personal all of a sudden!

Just one last point (hopefully) on censorship or otherwise (I don't want to risk the wrath of Sara ;) ), but there still doesn't seem to have been a good answer as to why the Oct 13, 2006 posting regarding Coke and Innocent appearing on C4 has mysteriously disappeared from the site (and now also disappeared from the Google cache as well).

Onto your specific points:

I don't think the world is black or white either. However some companies are certainly a darker shade of grey...and some a brighter white. I used to buy Innocent because it veered towards the light, but I now think it's been tarnished and heading in the wrong direction.

Consider this...

Over the last 10 years can you ever imagine Innocent being in any way involved in the death of a member of staff on their premises?

Can you imagine Innocent having to divert their PR effort to denying being involved in union busting?

Can you imagine Innocent ever being forced, by legal action rather than choice, to close a plant because it was having a detrimental effect on the water supplies to villages?

Can you imagine Innocent featuring in a Channel 4 expose on bad business practice and ethics?

I can't either, but regardless of where you stand on this issue, they are now involved with a company which has found itself in all of these situations - and more. Some of that had got to rub off in terms of reputation. You can already see how Innocent's ethical score has plummeted http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/Default.aspx?tabid=62&EntryID=290

That leaves a bad taste in my mouth - and it's not just the dodgy substandard smoothies I'm currently feeling morally obliged to drink, just to make a point!

Sold out to 'the man' - Just admit it then I'd respect you...

No loss to me - I make my own

Is there no way to reverse this decision? Can Innocent not run a campaign to raise the money to buy Coke's shares? When Anita Rodick sold out to l'Oreal I don't think anyone could blame her though I know that most of my friends stopped shopping at the Body Shop. She was at the end of her career, had fought the good fight and raised the industry standard in the process. No one could resent her wanting to enjoy her remaining years. But you guys are still young and have so much ahead of you. Your infectious vision could be applied in increasingly influential venues with the power of your customers behind you. Can we not buy Coke out?

Matthew. Just go and buy Tropicana instead.

@Matthew. Why not? It's cheaper, it tastes as good and now there seems to be very little in it when it comes to "feel good factor" (especially if you donate some of what you save to charity).

Yet again, I'm the lucky one out of the hundreds of detractors who gets personal attention from an Innocent fan. Just what have I done to deserve this fame?! ;)

I feel honoured so many people are taking such notice of my posts and seem to care so much about my opinion. Thanks Andrew!

@Andrew. Sorry, discovering I have a new found audience hanging on my every word and just desperate to tell me to get a life, or drink Tropicana, has swollen my ego to such huge proportions I addressed my last comment to myself rather than you!

Haha. I really don't care Matthew. Just think you should direct your endeavours to a properly worthy cause. You could make a real difference. And get a great job with Pepsico.

@Andrew.

Thanks again Andrew. You don't care, but yet you still continue to single me out for your wonderful attention and skilfully constructed arguments. I am indeed blessed.

I was worried that this thread would die a death through lack of interest - but you guys who keep slapping me down with your incisive comments are keeping it ticking along nicely. Keep up the good work.


Matthew. Spending time on here creating a 'skillfully constructive' argument (?) is your game. I'm here because I used to (a few years ago) work for innocent; I care for them as a business because they have strong principles. Whatever the deal that's been made, the core innocent philosophy is the same. I have no vested interest - I'm just amused by the rantings of people who really have no idea what they are talking about.

@Andrew.

Afraid I consider being a former employee of Innocent as being a fairly vested interest!

It was "skilfully constructed" actually, which does make sense if you read it again. I was being sarcastic anyway, so it matters little.

This debate would be far more useful if you did actually concentrate on sharing your knowledge of the issue to refute the actual points us "ranters" are making, rather than just making it about me.

If you have a better idea of what we are talking about, share it with us, engage in proper debate, make some real points.

At the moment all you seem to be doing is trying to make points at my expense (and you yourself point out that its not just me who is "ranting", why don't you have a go at them?). The only other things you seem to be achieving is a) dragging this thread out far longer than it probably should have done and b) making it look like some people on this thread have decided they want to bully people into shutting up because they are expressing points of view which don't match with their own, or their ex-employers.

Andrew, you're a credit to Innocent, your loyalty is indeed obvious. Your continued loyalty to me and my posts is also welcomed. You are my new number one anti-fan seeing as Sara seems to have tired of me, the fickle lady that she is. :(

Good luck with all this Michael. Have fun.

@Andrew.

Will do. Thanks for the chat - it's been illuminating.

Hope everyone had a fun filled bank holiday weekend.

Responses from your lovely customers' questions email person seem to suggest Richard is away for a while on holiday so I guess we'll be waiting a little longer for any further elaboration on the Coke defence (out of interest, can none of the other founders defend the deal? I assume they were as involved in it as Richard).

Meanwhile, just a gentle prod. You promised, some time ago, transcripts of Richard's video blogs for those of us who don't really do videocasting. Are we likely to see those?

And a while back Dan also posted a response saying we could expect "a full page of FAQs tomorrrow on the site"...I assume that was downgraded into the short selection of FAQs posted somewhere above - or can we expect more?

Hello Matthew

Rich is away on holiday at the moment, as is Adam, so we are a bit short of founders at the moment.

As for the transcripts and FAQs, they've been up on this page for a while now:

http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/us/our_story/2009-investment/

Thanks

dan

Oops. Sorry Dan, I think I imagined they'd go up as a blog posting, so hadn't checked there!

For anyone who's interested, here's a response I had to an e-mail below. I replied saying how ill-thought out it was that the people on the frontline weren't given a briefing before going public. Especially if they were going to be going on holiday! It might be worth dropping Mark Thomas a line, if he's going to be meeting Richard Reed - I'm assuming it won't be happening in a public arena.

The more I hear about it, the more I am convinced that the Great and the Good at Innocent don't know the first thing about Coke and didn't even come close to 'due diligence'.

-------------

Thanks for getting in touch. Rich is actually meeting with Mark Thomas soon - just thought you might be interested to know. By not discussing the allegations against coke I can't help but feel like the manager on match of the day who claims not have seen the red card challenge, but the truth of it is that I don't work for Coca Cola, I work for innocent, and in all honesty I don't really feel I know enough to comment on the allegations. I'm reading up on things though.

There's nothing in the contract that would stop me from saying what I liked though. We’re a company of free thinking individuals who are free to make their own minds up, and it would be a sad day if that ever changed. I know it won't though.

I joined this company because it represented an ethical, human approach to business that I massively admired, and I honestly don't see that approach changing. We needed an injection of cash to survive and grow at a time when many businesses - small and large - are struggling, and we got this from Coca Cola. However, this does not in any way change who we are, or what we're about.

I'm really sorry you feel let down by us, but thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

All the best,

Joe

It gave me great hope to see such an ethical company doing so well. To be able to buy a drink in the supermarkets that felt guilt free, even a drink which I felt proud to have bought... What you have done has left a very bitter taste in my mouth, I feel betrayed by a trusted friend. I loved your drinks, I loved your newsletter and everything you stood for but now I see that it was just marketing...

Coca-cola is the epitome of evil, greedy multi-national corporation, it saddens me to see you going that way too... Why did you 'need' their money... To grow... For what... Greed? Your whole existence is based on lies and hypocrisy.

Good-bye 'Innocent'.

This looks less like a good 'Innocent' business decision, and more like a good 'business' decision given they were likely terrified about the P&J buyout by Pepsi.

Still, Innocent has lost a customer. It's a dreadful, dreadful decision in the eyes of customers who loved and respected the business, but hardly surprising. How cynical have the founders become? Or were they really that cynical from the beginning?

Hello Dave

Just a small point to clarify - our decision had nothing to do with PepsiCo buying PJ smoothies. That event occurred in 2005.

Then in 2008, PepsiCo scrapped the PJ brand.

So no real bearing on what we chose to do recently.

@Dave - you might have seen some recent media reports making the suggestion it was PepsiCo's Tropicana (rather than PJ, which they acquired and killed, as Dan pointed out) making inroads into Innocent territory - especially in Europe, which prompted the panic. I think I might have even seen Mr Reed mention this as one of the reasons behind accepting the Coke money, but sure Dan can put me right if I imagined it.

Whatever, I think it's a very strange strategy to try and save Innocent, if their market share is under threat.

Now that Coke has shown its hand in terms of its strategy in the "smoothie wars" (most likely the eventual acquisition of the established Innocent brand, with whatever good will is left in a few years), PepsiCo (which let us not forget is as well-funded as Coke) can react. I struggle to see how £30m is going to hold off PepsiCo for long if it decides to put up a fight for the smoothie sector, especially as a lot of the fighting will be done in markets where Innocent either isn't established at all - or still struggling to find its feet.

What's to stop Pepsi from throwing money at Tropicana for a few years to drive Innocent under? They already undercut them on price and now there isn't much between them in terms of USP (and if Pepsi did something clever like, say, give 10 per cent of profit to charity, you'd struggle to get a cigarette paper between them!)

Meanwhile, Innocent will be drifting away from its traditional niche - potentially allowing smaller operators to do exactly what it did 10 years ago and capitalise on being the little underdog, unconnected with the big, bad brands and in need of consumer loving to avoid being "squashed".

I'm not sure how Innocent plan to fight this war on two fronts - but it will be interesting to see if they pull it off!

I've seen mention of 'innocent' company accounts which demonstrate significant payments to founder members in recent years. However I haven't been able to find these.

Presumably if the founders were taking large profits from the company, it makes the 'we needed Coke's dirty money to survive' argument even more tenuous.

Does anyone have a link to these accounts, or know how I could view a copy?

Testing...testing...

Repeating what I posted elsewehre: Any chance of a new ranters, ravers and whingers' posting chaps? It's a bit of a hassle to rack this one down everytime and clearly people still want to make their views known...I'm surprised the Coke deal doesn't appear to feature in the AGM discussion line-up.

Perhaps you can also make it a posting telling people that the village fete has been cancelled and keep all the negativity in one place?

http://www.eventmagazine.co.uk/channel/news/article/903778/Innocent-pulls-Village-Fete-ready-stick-experiential/

So all comments on the AGM blog about the deal with coke have been removed/censored.

So you don't believe in the right to free speech either then?

Oh and don't forget the Kudos Coke get for having their lovely sugary drinks on shelves next to all these healthy ones.

Hello Jeff.

We very much believe in free speech yes, we just want to keep each blog posts comments relevant to the topic of that post. You'll find plenty of uncensored free speech about the topic of Coca-Cola in this and the other post relating to Coke for example. The only things we have removed are comments containing swearing or linking to sites containing prominent swearing.

I find it thoroughly depressing what innocent have done. The cynicism and subsequent evasion of all difficult questions is truly appalling.

It's pretty clear that the Coke decision was at best poorly researched, and at worst a pre-meditated decision disregarding ethics with a view to a total sell-out in the future.

I find it very galling indeed that they maintain their perky chatter and "we're really excited by this" line, whilst refusing to acknowledge some disgusting allegations about human rights abuses.

Finally, what compounds the sour taste that Innocent now leaves in my mouth, is the signal that they are sending out to other businesses who are trying to be ethical... and that is that it's ok to take money from a multi-nationals with dodgy track records because let's face it, it's impossible to be truly ethical in this day and age.

WRONG. Yes, it is impossible to remain ethical and expand at a rate of knotts with a view to world domination; but it IS possible to stay ethical and small, and connected to your roots, connected to your consumers and not driven by expansion and profiteering.

Shame on you.

Sorry, I meant to add that if there could have been a small redeeming feature to this deal, it would have been to save the jobs of Innocent staff... but this deal came shortly AFTER Innocent made a significant number of staff redundant. And this is your definition of a 'no-brainer'.

Sorry but you're sounding like a bunch of disingenuous politicians now.

and another thing... (sorry for not posting as one post)

On the Waterstone's webchat, I was just reading, when asked about the reaction to the coke deal - you say it is mixed but you are happy that people feel passionate about your business.

Can I just correct you on this, seeing as you are probably labelling my posts as 'passionate' as we speak. I do not feel passionate about your business, I feel passionate about Coke's wrong doings and the detrimental affect that uncaring multinational businesses have on the second and third worlds.

Please don't credit yourselves.

You have completely sold out. Coca-cola are a disgraceful corporation who cause much misery around the world selling their disgusting product. I haven't touched any of their products for years, not since seeing campaigners from South India whose water had been run dry by the bottling plant. Coca-cola had then sold the poisonous sludge to farmers claiming it was great fertilizer for the crops, thereby causing more misery.
They are evil, nasty people. Have not recent events shown you that this corporate greed is going to ruin our planet.

Quite apart from the Coca-cola issue, expanding into Europe is going to increase food miles and oil consumption dramatically! Well Done Innocent. Are you hoping to dominate the planet before you contribute to its destruction or afterwards?

When I fancy a fruity kick next time, I'll buy an apple!

What an immense disappointment.

And for the people who think its no big deal, maybe you should research the effect of Coca-cola around the world and wonder how you would feel if it were your precious water supply being exhausted, or your family being killed.

Just a quick comment to say thank you to everyone for posting their comments. We appreciate people taking the time to share their views; we've read every single one.

We knew it was important for us to be transparent about the Coke investment, because we suspected some people would have strong views. That is why we announced the deal on the front page of the website the day it happened, and why we posted about it on our blog, sent it out in our newsletter, told the media and answered their questions, responded to all the emails we got sent, posted a FAQ section on the site answering questions raised by our drinkers, and hosted an AGM where people could ask about the deal and then filmed the results, which are on this site.

Hopefully the majority of people feel that we have been open about the deal. To those that think we should have done more, we apologise. We've done what we can and we have to balance the time spent on explaining our business decisions with the fact that we've got to get on with running the business and making our smoothies. As such, this is going to be our last post on the subject for now, unless anything material changes.

It's worth reiterating that the promises we have made about innocent (to make only natural, healthy food; to push for more sustainable ingredients and production techniques; to donate more to charity) will not change with this deal. In fact, we will do them more.

And for those people still unhappy/unsure about us doing the deal, could we ask you to maybe (temporarily) reserve judgement. Check back in a year's time to see if we've changed for the worst or whether we're continuing to do the things we've always promised to do. You may be pleasantly surprised.


Thanks.

Just after finishing reading the new innocent book and was about to pass it on with recommendations, but can't see the point of doing that now as it all rings hollow.

As suggested in earlier comments raising money from customers would be more in line with [what's left of the] innocent 'values', and could be truly innovative; perhaps a note on the side of the bottles advertising a micro-share offer.

It seems that you are scared of the challenge of moving into new markets which shows a lack of confidence in staff ability from the founders. I'd like to hear what the non-pr staff members have to say about this move.

Hi Eoghan.

We're sorry that you feel this way about us especially after taking the time to read our book. Regarding your question about raising money from consumers we have previously answered this question as a blog comment which I have pasted below. I have also pasted a previous comment from our Andrew D who work in our operations team for another view on the investment.

If you would like to talk to someone directly please feel free to email hello@innocentdrinks.co.uk

---
Why did innocent not attempt to secure some of the investment from customers?

The only way you could do this legally would be via a public flotation and issue shares via the stock market. We didn't want to do this as it would be complicated, time consuming and expensive.
---

Hi. I'm Andrew D. I work at innocent in the production team. I was the one who went to Malawi with the innocent foundation. I reckon its worth another perspective – completely my opinion, choose to take or leave it – at the end of the day I rely on you guys buying smoothies to keep me in a job so I guess I’m a “stakeholder” in this debate.

It came as a surprise when we found out the news this week. Being honest I was a little worried. After some time though, I think I’m actually more excited by what this means than concerned. Why? Because it means people are taking innocent seriously – both how we do things and what we stand for. If big companies (I’ve worked for a few) are taking notice then my feeling is that maybe there’s some hope that others might follow. I'd love to live in a world where everything is perfect but its not. Most people don’t care about their own recycling so how can we expect anyone to care about the mess we’re making of the place. Smoothies are not going to save the world (in the words of my friend Ceri - “get over yourself Dougal”). What will is actually trying to make small steps towards making things a little better each day. I feel that innocent will keep doing that whether coke are a minority investor or not.

Innocent is one of the few companies that I have seen that works in the world of business but that also gives back (to our consumers and to the foundation). I chose to work in a business that I believe in and that operates successfully in the normal commercial system. That means persuading people that RFA banana's are worth it and getting our consumers to support recycled bottles. It also means tough decisions like this one but I feel the guys have made one that is hopefully for a larger good (granted, they get richer too probably but hey, it’s a pretty cool business and its theirs). If this whole coke jazz makes us change then its simple, I’ll work somewhere else. If this coke thing means we can do what we were doing in a bigger and better way then I’m actually really up for it. Everyone has there own opinions which I love about innocent drinkers. Mine is to give this situation the benefit of the doubt and to make it work in a positive way. Andrew

Its a business get a life and not a charity.

Coke will provide them investment to expand, simple enough to understand.

Innocent are not comprimising their values in any way.

All the people that have been negative about the coca cola investment should put their money where there mouths are and offer innocent capital to expand.

In economics or macro-economics, fixed asset investment or formation (sometimes simply called investment) is the production per unit time of goods which are not consumed but are to be used for future production. Examples include tangibles (such as building a railroad or factory) and intangibles (such as a year of schoolings or on-the-job training like). In measures of national income and output, gross investment (represented by the variable I) is also a component of Gross domestic product (GDP), given in the formula GDP = C + I + G + NX, where C is consumption, G is government spending, and NX is net exports. Thus investment is everything that remains of production after consumption, government spending, and exports are subtracted (i.e. I = GDP - C - G - NX).

Two years on, with Coke now owning 58% of innocent, how's the marriage working out?

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