You may have seen in today's papers or on the telly that Coca-Cola have taken a minority stake in innocent. There’s a letter from the founders explaining the nature of the deal on the front page of our website (we put it there yesterday as lots more people visit our site than the blog – if you’ve time it may be worth checking it out)
The background to this deal is that we’re ten years into a thirty year journey towards what we want innocent to become. Our vision is for innocent to grow into a global, natural, healthy food and drinks company – one that makes stuff which is good for people, uses ‘lighter footprint’ ingredients, packaging and production techniques, and which supports charities in the countries where our fruit comes from. In terms of our international expansion, it’s a big goal, and to get there we're going to need a bit of help.
That's where the deal with Coke comes in. They've invested £30M for a stake of between 10% and 20%. We spoke to plenty of potential investors before we made a decision (over fifteen), and you'd be surprised how many wanted to tell us what to do and to run innocent themselves, rather than allowing us to carry on doing what we do.
And that's why we chose Coke – because of all the people we spoke to, they were the ones who guaranteed a hands-off approach; an approach that means that we continue to run innocent our way. We will continue to make the decisions, just as we always have done. Adam, Jon and Richard, the three founders, will continue to lead the business. Coke have placed no restrictions on what we can and cannot do. But we can ask for their advice and help from time to time, which we think will be useful. They may even at some point be able to help distribute our products, but it’s early days so we’ll have to see.
The investment means we now have the funds to do what we’re here to do; get more healthy stuff to more people and places across Europe and beyond. And, let’s face it, times are pretty hard economically speaking, and this investment gives us the added stability to weather the tough headwinds most businesses are facing.
If you've ever started your own business, you'll be able to appreciate that innocent is much more to us than the place where we work. And we know people will believe us when we say that we thought more about this decision than any other in our history. We know some people will always disagree and we will respect that, but we know this deal is a great opportunity for innocent and will allow us to do what we’re here to do – get more healthy products to more people.
We know you have thoughts and comments so feel free to post them. But please keep all comments clean and free of abuse – this is a family show i.e. kids read this blog too.
A short note - there have been lots of comments on this post, but the navigation to see subsequent pages of comments is a little hidden, due to the standard blog design. You'll find a small set of double arrows like this '>>' at the bottom of the page, above the "Post a comment' box. Click it to see subsequent comments.
You thought wrong - you just killed your business :(
Posted by: jim | April 07, 2009 at 11:58 PM
So disappointed. It is not OK for you to say that you will still be the same company and that coke will 'let' you keep your ethical policies. The fact is that now part of the profit from every innocent smoothie goes to lining the pockets of coke's shareholders. That's something i chose not to do so I'm now no longer a customer- a real shame, I really liked your smoothies, but your business is tainted. How could you!
Posted by: L Mitchell | April 08, 2009 at 12:25 AM
I really thought that innocent would stand on their own through these tough economic times. Anyone can access your company records to see you turn a healthy profit. We could understand the Mcdonalds decision as it meant fruit for kids but how can you justify coke owning any part of Innocent? Do you now agree that sugar is ok for kids? Maybe you can explain to the kids reading this blog how the Innocent they used to know has now changed. No doubt the distribution is a huge win but what is the real cost of ethically selling out? Innocent used to be an ethically sound business but now when times get tough the real value of whats important becomes clear, and for Innocent it would see to be the almighty pound.
Posted by: James Snow | April 08, 2009 at 12:29 AM
Killed nothing, minority stack coke can and won't do anything, innocent still innocent I will still buy their products I have been to their fête twice now they are awesome. I must say that it did scare me when I first heard but know knowing what has transpired I am happy. They could have lookedcat google ventures here in the uk for capital if that is what they wanted but no one know how to sell drinks better then coke. Think of this like dragons den you not only get the cash but you get their knowledge and contacts it is for the best interest of coke that innocent does well they have paid 30m for their minority stack. And for innocent to do well they need to do what they do best be innocent and that is not about to change. Next fête I will shake their hands for raising awareness and making the world a little better.
One last thing the thing on radio four with that idiot eddy I really wish someone told him to shut up that guy is so rude if I ever get to speak with him I will give such hear full
Posted by: Dan | April 08, 2009 at 12:34 AM
Typo coke CANT do anything
Posted by: Dan | April 08, 2009 at 12:36 AM
Personally I boycott Coke because of this http://www.waronwant.org/news/campaigns-news/15153-coca-cola-drinking-the-world-dry
(old report but there are still issues in India).
So now I'm not buying innocent either :(
Posted by: Laura | April 08, 2009 at 12:47 AM
At best this is misguided - you'll be a fig leaf for Coke's unethical corporate machine. At worst it is a greed-driven betrayal of values and customers.
Posted by: Paul Morris | April 08, 2009 at 12:48 AM
Disgrace but not surprising, you have sold your soul. Thats the last time we buy your products.
Posted by: Mike | April 08, 2009 at 05:34 AM
I agree, a better investor could have been found, one with some ethics and that doesn't go around destroying communities with their industry, and selling drinks with over the daily recommended amount of sugar to young children.
I am disappointed that this step has been taken and understand why people are expressing their unease. I figure the majority of your market will continue to buy, and that is what you'll be relying on.
A sad day for independent and ethical business.
Posted by: Bee | April 08, 2009 at 06:41 AM
well I’m sorry to say, as a very careful shopper, and a household that consumes 3 to 4 cartons of innocent smoothie a week, I will be switching to another brand. I don’t want 20% of the money I pay to your profits going to Coca-cola. I have spent many years trying to support ethical companies and Coca-Cola has frequently proved to be nothing of the sort.
You should be ashamed
Posted by: Paul | April 08, 2009 at 07:30 AM
While I understand people having negative reactions to the news, I think some might not be looking at the bigger picture.
Personally, I think it's more important to think about what Innocent has gained by the deal than what has been lost.
Innocent has gained the security and backing needed to expand and develop their brand, while doing so on their own terms - remember, Coke are taking a hands off approach here.
We can also look at what Coke has gained.
Coke gets a lot of negative press. People disagree with it's practices, and the health credentials of it's products are often called into question.
But now, Coke has an interest to see Innocent, one of the healthiest companies around, do well and turn a profit through selling their delicious smoothies to kids.
So, while Coke have been attacked for selling sugary drinks to kids, they are now moving in the right direction by adding more healthy products to their business.
Personally, I don't like Coke, and wont buy it. But if Coke decided to start up a new company with ethical policies and producing tasty drinks, I would buy them and I would believe that doing so would be a step toward showing Coke how things can and should be done.
And I kind of see the Innocent/Coke situation like that. I will continue buying Innocent, because I want Innocent to be able to show Coke that you can make a profit without selling sugar to kids and doing all the other questionable stuff Coke has been reported as doing.
You have to believe things can change, and that the little company can stand up for what it believes in and change the way the big companies work.
If you boycott Innocent, it will hurt Innocent. Not Coke, Coke wont even notice. They'll just see Innocent under perform and turn off the taps and leave them to struggle.
But if Innocent do well, Coke might just sit up and take some notice when they see a company making healthy products and playing nicely while also turning a profit.
Posted by: Ruben | April 08, 2009 at 07:34 AM
David and Clare Hieatt co-founders of howies describe their business like having a baby. You are the parent. You watch it try to walk. You pick it up when it falls. No one cares about it like you. No one frets like a parent.
Having just started our own business we understand how strong these feelings are.
And, having met you all we don't believe for a second that the decision to sell a share of the business to ANYONE was taken lightly or without careful consideration to how your drinkers would feel.
The idea that innocent would just 'sell-out' overnight after building a business from nothing is ridiculous. Perhaps if all the naysayers out there understood what it takes to build a business from nothing (but fruit), they'd know the deal with Coke was only to make innocent better.
We will continue to drink your smoothies.
James, Chris & Stuart
Posted by: Thoughtful | April 08, 2009 at 07:41 AM
They have a point about coke not being ethical, wanted to raise capital here is an idea: you could have made a special carten that once bought gave a small number of shares, while your say you sell 2m drinks a day I am sure your customers would have paid 10 to 15 pounds for such carton. U as customer could log in here to register your shares and even get paid for your investement when time comes. A contract could have been setup so at the end of a 5year period you could renew your investement or you would buy the share back. So anyway something like that we would have helped you achive your goals and be innocent ourselves.
Posted by: Dan | April 08, 2009 at 07:56 AM
"They may at some point be able to distribute our products but it's early days, so we'll have to wait and see". You bet your life they will.
And then you'll be surprised when they turn around and say 'you don't need those distribution staff anymore, in fact you don't need a lot of your staff - look how few staff we need to run our multi-million pound business. We're not paying for you to be over-staffed. Make them redundant' just as they have in other takeovers. And then it will really begin.
"Coke guarantee a hands off approach". What planet are you people on? Can you really be this naive? They spend £30million and then have nothing to say? Think 'Dragons Den'. Would they spend £30m, have a 20% stake and then not have something to say about how their money was spent to get a return for their investment? Come to that, would you?
It would be laughable if it wasn't so desperately sad. You just killed your brand and, in a few short years, you'll look back and realise you killed your business in the process. In fact it'll probably be turned into a marketing case-study one day, and not in a good way.
No more jolly blogs, cutie emails, cottage-industry-style village fetes or sweetie messages on the side of cartons please... they just don't fit with your brand image anymore. Not that I'll know much about it... since the Innocent Smoothies in my fridge don't taste the same this morning and I don't want to pay a premium for you to give it away to companies like Coke, I (and legions of others judging by the messages) will just buy cheaper for ourselves and our children from now on. A sad day.
Posted by: Bev | April 08, 2009 at 08:00 AM
I'm tired of being told by innocent and others that I don't see "the big picture". My family have businesses, I'm not an idiot, I understand the need for capital and investment. But would you take money from anyone so long as they were hands-off? How about the Burmese Junta? Robert Mugabe? George Bush? I doubt it. No matter what you say, it IS important who you allow to fund you. Even if they don't have a controlling stake, they can still influence you. And you're already talking about the possibility of them being your suppliers in the future.
This is such a kick in the guts. I have never really cared about a company before, mainly because I hadn't found one that seems to match my principles. Then you go along and make a deal with a corporation that is at the top of my "avoid at all costs" list. Sorry, I have to follow my conscience and will be encouraging others to do the same.
Posted by: Conor | April 08, 2009 at 08:46 AM
I might say that I am a bit disappointed.
Coke's entry = the end of the fairytale
NOW welcome in the business world
what a shame
Posted by: Michael Boamah | April 08, 2009 at 09:00 AM
It was a shock to read about your new minority stakeholder at first, but having read the context behind this decision, I fully support you. It would have been a tough decision to make, but I don't think it will make innocent any less ethical, any less healthy or any less enjoyable.
Everything I love about innocent is still there, and I wouldn't want to do anything to stop you guys from being around. In fact, I will try to drink more innocent smoothies to try and make up for all the people who are saying they won't buy your smoothies anymore. ;)
Posted by: Alia | April 08, 2009 at 09:14 AM
As an ex-innocent employee I strongly believe your angst regarding "no more jolly blogs, cutie emails etc" will be proven as unsubstianted - this is not just a marketing thing, it's the way people are at innocent.
Buying cheaper: what's the benefit for you and your kids except saving some pennies? And by doing this (i.e. buying own labels) you would rather support ethical companies like Tesco or Pepsi (Topicana)? Let your kids decide if they'd prefer a smoothie from a multi-billion pound brand with a wannabe kids-friendly tonality or from a brand that loves little people and the product itself respectively. You should see the attention and love to the tiniest detail when new labels or packaging are made. I strongly suggest to bring your kids to Fruit Towers in London when are around - you will understand what I mean.
Time will tell if Coke will stand to their word of a "hands-free" approach. In the meantime I am convinced the three founders will stand to their words - there won't be redundancies coming from the Coke deal - these already have been made a couple of months ago in view of the credit crunch. A process unfortunately familiar with many UK companies as I hear from the continent.
Bev, let's see how the situation develops over the next months - maybe you will be right, maybe not.
Posted by: Simon | April 08, 2009 at 09:25 AM
Its difficul to make a judgement on how much influence coke will have without more details. if coke's investment is a pure < 20% shareholding (with no shareholder agreement or the like on the side or corporate decisions requiring 100% votes) then coke has NO control, as even the most serious / controversial of corporate decisions under normal corproate statutes need only a 75% vote to pass. Of course even if Coke have no control then you still have the issue of 20% profits rolling back to coke, but i dont see that as too fatal to innocent's image. I suggest innocent publish full details of the investment terms on the website if they really want people to be sympathetic. It would also be interesting to know if the £30 is all being retained in the co to fund operations or if some is being paid out to early investors....
Posted by: matt | April 08, 2009 at 09:29 AM
I kinda feel the need to point out to a few people that coke isn't really directed at young children, and what little ones drink is pretty well up to their parents.
So long as innocent don't lose their standards and personality, then this is fine in my world.
It's your innocent, and I think we should respect that.
Posted by: Emma | April 08, 2009 at 09:35 AM
have you read your Facebok page - its packed full of scrummy yummy customers telling you they feel betrayed.
I can't quite believe how excercised and angry I am about this - its only a smoothie company there are plenty more non-ethical ones out there who cost a lot less too.
Posted by: steve | April 08, 2009 at 09:40 AM
To the people who say they'd boycott innocent and buy a different brand, i'd like to say be careful. The main alternatives are Big supermarket's own products (is Tesco more ethical than coke?) or Tropicana (owned by Pepsi). At least innocent is trying to supply their drinks as ethically as possible and will continue to do so. I'm not that excited that coke now has a small stake in innocent but I can see why it has positives to it. innocent is not a charity after all. And although i don't agree with all their ways of working i think a lot of the bad press about them is misinformed. And i do occassionally buy a can of coke so not going to stop buying innocent on that basis.
Posted by: Alex | April 08, 2009 at 09:41 AM
Urgh – I feel like I am watching a good friend get bullied in the playground and wish there was something I could do to stop it.
Innocent had the courage to do something that it felt it needed to do – knowing it would lead to all this abuse, knowing that it would rile people up and knowing that it would lose them customers.
Now, why on earth would they do that, unless they really had to?
Innocent, I wish I could stand up for you in the playground, but I have a sneaky suspicion that you can do that pretty well all by yourself.
I will continue to buy your smoothies and continue to believe in you.
Posted by: Millicent | April 08, 2009 at 09:52 AM
Won't be buying your products any more.
You have killed your brand forever.
Posted by: ronan | April 08, 2009 at 10:02 AM
Thanks. I take your comments onboard as you've worked there and I haven't. My husband worked for Appletizer when they sold a minority share to Coke (yes you've guessed it, 20%) and the first thing they said was 'why don't you use our distribution channels as they're already there and it'll get your costs down', then they questioned keeping the staff who did those things before, and it went on from there. Getting the JustJuice brand which was part of that group and then running it at lowest possible cost was the only thing they cared about - and it was carnage. Of course all they care about is cost, that is why they are where they are and they will impose the same cost blueprints on Innocent, who I believe will be helpless to resist. I genuinely hope for all the Innocent employees' sakes that this turns out to be different, but it's sounding spookily similar already. And I'm quite sure from everything I've read that the Co-Founders did this with all the right intentions, but the partner they have chosen (and why in God's name it had to be Coke we will never understand) is a PR disaster and this isn't going to go away.
In terms of switching brands in our house, Tropicana's ownership by Pepsi is common knowledge. They produce a top quality product which is very often cheaper than Innocent, they use frozen fruit pulp etc not from concentrate, just as Innocent do. And I'm sorry but I really can't see much difference between the two of them now in terms of their profile. I'm sorry but I just don't... the little warm feeling when you put the Innocent Smoothie in your basket just isn't going to be there anymore. Hence the decision-making process in the supermarket now comes down to one thing: price.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my rant though and I really hope I'm wrong. I'll stop now.
Posted by: Bev | April 08, 2009 at 10:20 AM
My only dismay is that another independent company has had to sell up (a portion) in order to expand. But what some narrow minded people forget is that with this expansion you can further your message of behaving ethically and drinking healthily to a wider audience.
Coke have a very bad track record but everyone has the ability to change. Even if it is a positive change to gain profits, it is still a positive change. If Coke change their business practices a small amount to match innocent, surely you have achieved your goals.
Don't let it go the other way. Stay Innocent
Posted by: MarkiMark | April 08, 2009 at 10:23 AM
It doesn't only matter where the money goes to (i.e invested in innocent) - it matters where it comes *from* (i.e. from Coke and its dubious practices). If you are saying you can't ride the economic waves using only ethical investment, you are giving a big vote of no confidence to an ethical world economy.
It reminds me of bigmouth 'activists' who talk the talk while still living off Daddy's unethically procured pay packet.
Posted by: Sally | April 08, 2009 at 10:24 AM
Bev, thanks for your answer.
"And I'm sorry but I really can't see much difference between the two of them (Trop vs innocent) now in terms of their profile. I'm sorry but I just don't... "
Do Tropicana also give 10% of annual profit to charities? Do they educate farmers about sustainable growing? Do they care about packaging material that is from 100% recycled PET? Do they care about sustainability at all?
All these things cost money. Have that in mind when making the next purchasing decision at your supermarket.
PS: Have to remind myself I am not working for innocent any longer... ;-)
Posted by: Simon | April 08, 2009 at 10:37 AM
(and this really is my last post, honest)
The cynic in me says that those things will have to change, but... you know. ;o)
I worked for a wonderful company for many years that I struggled to get out of my system, I still find myself defending them. Innocent have been pretty quiet yesterday and today, probably stunned by the overwhelmingly negative response and it's just about impossible to say the right thing in these circumstances I guess.
You are a credit to your (ex) employer.
Posted by: Bev | April 08, 2009 at 10:46 AM
I originally posted this in the comments to the previous (tadpoles) post because this post didn't exist, but this seems like a better place for it:
What has happened to the Innocent Drinks blog post from October 13 2006 about Innocent's appearance on a Channel 4 News report criticising Coca-Cola and featuring some Innocent owners/staff?
[this is actually a question I would like answered, not just a rant]
In the Channel 4 clip you say "we're not for sale so please don't crush us".
The comments on the post were full of criticism of Coca-Cola yet no Innocent staff/writers questioned this criticism or defended Coca-Cola.
The original link stopped working at some point between 15 February 2009 and 6 April 2009. Does not work as of 10:00 8 April 2009: http://innocentdrinks.typepad.com/innocent_drinks/2006/10/were_on_the_new.html
But here is a Google Cache of the post: http://18.104.22.168/search?oe=UTF-8&q=cache%3AmzBK9pblRqMJ%3Ainnocentdrinks.typepad.com%2Finnocent_drinks%2F2006%2F10%2Fwere_on_the_new.html
TinyURL alternative: http://tinyurl.com/dcqo2s
Posted by: Mlong | April 08, 2009 at 10:58 AM
'innocent' could afford to give 10% to charity because people were willing to pay 20-30% over the price of competitors in order to support a business they believed was truly ethical. This supposed ethical approach is inconsistent with becoming an apologist for Coke (one of the least ethical corporations) and working towards increasing their profits.
Your questions re 'do they care' could now equally be applied to 'innocent'
Posted by: Paul Morris | April 08, 2009 at 11:01 AM
Dan and everyone at innocent:
I'm sorry, but if the price of your plans for international expansion is the necessity of doing this deal, then you should have killed your desire for growth until you found a better way.
Isn't it better to undertake that proposed '30-year journey' well in one corner of the world than to do it in this shameful way? Some of us who have been here throughout the 10 years to date were buying your products precisely because there was no link to grandiose, greedy corporations such as Coke.
Your strategy is foolish and self-destructive. You will regret it, as many of us do now. Adieu!
Posted by: Mark Wyman | April 08, 2009 at 11:09 AM
I don't approve of Coca Cola as your business partner because I don't approve of Coca Cola as a company - human rights and workers' rights issues, plus the environmental issues, make it impossible for me to buy their products. So, for me, it doesn't matter whether their approach is hands on or hands off - their money is dirty. I will not contribute to their profits through buying their products or, now, yours.
There are still ethical alternatives out there - certified fair trade imports, local grocers and farmers markets. Just because I no longer buy innocent doesn't mean my money will be going to Tesco or similar Big Evil Corporation. And I can give money to charity by myself to top up what's not going to the innocent foundation. This is not an ethical dilemma for me, it's a simple choice between ethical and unethical.
Posted by: Naomi Farmer | April 08, 2009 at 11:40 AM
Its not a question of who ismore ethical Tesco or Innocent. Thats like saying less evil - Innocent isn't innocent. Thats its USP gone.
Posted by: steve | April 08, 2009 at 12:14 PM
so long, and thanks for all the fruit.
Posted by: Tony | April 08, 2009 at 12:36 PM
I think it was a very brave PR decision but a brilliant business decision to get Coke on board, particularly with Pepsi (tropicana n pj's) seeming so keen to take you guys on. It's easy for people to criticize your decision but they've probably never owned a business that listed Pepsi co as its biggest threat i'd imagine! i understand that we have deep emotional attachment to brands and can sometimes feel cheated like in our personal relationships, but Under that competitive threat, standing still is as good as going backwards and after all, there's not very much you can do to help people if you go out of business!
No matter what people write about you in the press in the coming days, i hope people will see that you guys are trying to do the right thing and i hope that a link with coke might actually help you expand your reach even within this country to the people that are in most need of fruit in their diets. We ourselves are a university based made to order smoothie company based in Hull (the fatest city in world apparently) but make a point of visiting schools, some of the poorest in the country, with our smoothie roadshows as a means of inspiring kids to be healthier.
I'd like to wish you all the very best of luck both at this time and in the future expansion into Europe and i hope people appreciate what your are trying to do.
Posted by: simon | April 08, 2009 at 12:39 PM
very disappointed by this news.
coke represents everything that innocent wasnt.
by making this deal you've instantly tarnished your own image and allied yourselves with a truely disgusting organisation.
i'll finish the carton in the fridge, but from this point on innocent is just another name on the list of products not to buy as part of the killer coke boycott.
Posted by: andy dobson | April 08, 2009 at 12:44 PM
I have read this news with dismay. I actively try to educate people on the appalling human rights of Coca Cola, complicit in the murder of union members in Columbia for example. For anyone unaware of these I recommend the Mark Thomas book "Belching Out the Devil", not to mention the dreaful, dreaful environmental issues surrounding the company.
I currently purchase several cartons of Innocent a week. These will be removed from my shopping basket from now on and I will unsubscribe from the jolly email news I used to look forward to - it will only leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Innocent - you should change your name: you have blood on your hands.
Posted by: Melanie Campbell | April 08, 2009 at 12:51 PM
The thing that everyone is missing here is that the USP - the key to the market - was INNOCENCE. Even the logo has a halo - but you can't be innocent when you take dirty Coke money and have one of their execs on your board.
The USP is GONE !
Forget the flavour and the 10% for good causes - the brand now has no emotional value.
Posted by: steve | April 08, 2009 at 12:56 PM
I think a link to Robert Muggabe is a little extreme!
As a previous innocent employee I know how much thought goes into decisions like this and also how hard it is to expand into Europe.
I doubt very much that with a 10-20% investment coke are going to be asking Innocent to make large numbers of employees redundent.
Its a good move for the company, it means expansion will be smoother and shelf space will be easier to obtain across Europe. If it means that a brand such as Innocent can expand and be seen by more people then that is the main thing. I think its very easy for people to get on their soap boxes and not realise how much work it has taken to get Innocent to where it is in the last 10 years.
Posted by: Chris | April 08, 2009 at 01:17 PM
Now we know the Innocent founders had their 30-year-plan for world domination, I have to congratulate them. Coke is an ideal bedfellow and you're going to make shedloads of cash fellas!
However, you seem to have missed the point that we loved Innocent because it was a "local" rather than global brand; because you seemed to be in it for the right reasons, rather than pure desire to increase turnover and distribution; because you agreed with us that big and corporate was bad.
Frankly, I don't really care if your promises that Coke won't change you prove true or not. I don't really care if you do achieve your global domination.
I don't really care about Innocent anymore.
Minus another customer.
Posted by: Matthew Fry | April 08, 2009 at 01:23 PM
I have unsubscribed from your mailing list due to my disappointment at investment from Coca-cola. I shall no longer be buying Innocent smoothies. I feel that for a product at such a price as your smoothies, you are asking customers to 'buy in' to a lifestyle (for buying the same amount of fresh, fairtrade / rainforest alliance / organic fruit independently would be clearly cheaper) - a lifestyle which you clearly market as ethical. I believe that this is completely at odds with the ethos and behaviour of such an investor as Coca-cola.
Although inevitable that this situation would arise (after all, Innocent is not a cooperative), it is still disappointing from a company that likes to market itself as being able to reconcile big business and ethics.
I am sure that Innocent will in fact go from strength to strength in terms of profitably and clearly this is a priority for the three founders, just like it is for any business.
Just to clarify, and to echo another poster, simply because I will not be buying Innocent anymore does not mean that I will be giving money to another 'evil' company. I'll just eat the same fresh fruit and give the rest to charity independently.
Posted by: Monica | April 08, 2009 at 01:31 PM
As I said in my email to the owners...Shame on You. This is a disgraceful and indefensible move by Innocent. Shame, shame, shame.
Posted by: Jonathan Pettit | April 08, 2009 at 01:32 PM
Its interesting that people talk of refusing to by from a company part owned by coke, yet talk of shoping at a supermarket. The wrongs of coke are noting compaird to the wrongs of the likes of Tescos.
Posted by: Paul | April 08, 2009 at 01:37 PM
Innocent have always been the most cynical marketing machine around, exploiting stupid middle class hippies who thought they were actually doing some good by buying their fruit juice, not to mention exploiting their workers with low pay (I've never seen such high staff turnover in my life !). Well, the truth is finally out, the chattering classes look on in astonishment and feel betrayed, welcome to the real world folks, and remember ... never trust a hippy
Posted by: Dick Mustard | April 08, 2009 at 01:46 PM
I dont think that Tescos is potraying itself as ethical and sustainable is it? The whole coke move is seen as hypocritical coming from a business that promotes itself as having green ethics and sustainable. Seems like another greenwash scenario.
Posted by: James Snow | April 08, 2009 at 01:47 PM
Innocent's ethiscore fell from 12.5 to 6.5 yesterday following news that Coca-Cola had bought a stake of around 20% in the company. Ethiscore is a score out of twenty awarded by Ethical Consumer magazine for a company's performance against a range of social and environmental issues.
(From Ethical Consumer website - they provide evidence based reviews of ethical practice)
Posted by: Paul Morris | April 08, 2009 at 01:54 PM
very disappointed - only last week held you up as an example of excellent branding to a potential client and said 'imagine how you'd feel if you discovered innocent used gmo ingredients harvested from protected land by 3 year old children - that's why authentic brand values and positions are important". If you neeed investment, why not consider going to your customers, I'd happily have invested in you. You could have issued a bond, something imaginative and it would have built my loyalty even more.
Posted by: elaine tierney | April 08, 2009 at 02:02 PM
I will never buy an Innocent product again. Minus another customer.
Posted by: Laura from London | April 08, 2009 at 02:02 PM
A complete and utter sell out. A few points:
There were alternatives to getting an investment from Coca Cola. To suggest otherwise, that only those "business people" could understand the situation, is just nonsensical.
The big question for me is - what is the ultimate exit route for the Innocent owners/Coca Cola - just a hunch that it could be the complete acquisition by Coca Cola. And don't tell me that the business would remain untouched then - dream on. And if the founders don't intend to sell everything, if they can't afford expansion costs now, they're unlikely to be able to afford buying back Coca Cola's share later. Ultimately it will be a complete acquisition by a corporate or sale to private equity. Your independence has been sold - don't try and dress it up otherwise.
As to alternatives, despite the prevalence of Tesco, Tropicana etc, there is Co-op and Waitrose and I for one shall be supporting these from now on. Less choice maybe, but they live up to ethical standards. That is more important to me and I suspect many other loyal consumers.
It's disappointing to reflect that these founders have not been able to break the business mould sufficiently and look set to go the same way as all the other ethically sound businesses in selling out to big business. I thought they had more vision than that.
And please don't try the village fete this year - you really will just look very silly.
Posted by: Darren | April 08, 2009 at 02:04 PM
Shame on you
Posted by: Toby Hart | April 08, 2009 at 02:10 PM
I feel this decision is the Anita Roddick of the drinks world. To have consistently preached one thing and then sold out in this manner is disappointing
Posted by: steve | April 08, 2009 at 02:16 PM
In the search for new customers you have ignored and excluded those true and faithful original followers who admired your unique principles
Posted by: steve | April 08, 2009 at 02:19 PM
Oh well, time to buy a smoothie maker and ethically sourced fruit. Such a shame but getting into bed with a company like coke is not the way to go, they may not change your morals, but you are providing a smokescreen for their dodgy ones.
Posted by: Sam | April 08, 2009 at 02:24 PM
I LOVE Innocent. I really pushed you guys in so many blogs and articles I've written.
In terms of making a cold, calculated business decision, you guys have done brilliantly... but as a loving, caring, ethically conscious brand, you have really let me down.
To justify this deal by saying that Coke has helped you to spread your 'ethical' products to more people is akin to the police seeking law enforcement aid from the Mafia.
Everything you stand for - the production of healthy drinks and food, produced ethically, etc... is something that Coca Cola is not part of in the slightest... so how can you go to them for help?
I'm really surprised... but then again, you're a big company now - no longer the small fish you once were - and you want to get bigger... so should I really be surprised at all?
Posted by: Mohammed Jiwa | April 08, 2009 at 02:28 PM
Four words... Sleeping with the enemy.
And now a few more... So disappointed in you guys. If you're after a good read, please refer to http://www.amazon.co.uk/Belching-Out-Devil-Adventures-Coca-Cola/dp/0091922933
I was going to send it to you but with all the money you've made from your new deal, I'm sure you can afford to get your own. Corporate sell-out comes to mind. To say it's left a bad taste in my mouth doesn't even come close. Really expected better from all at Innocent :O(
Posted by: Nicola | April 08, 2009 at 02:31 PM
I so can't be bothered reading the 50 other comments but a lot of them seem to bash you, so I felt compelled to say something too.
I've always approved of your 'ethical' standpoints, ultimately Innocent is a business but I'd really like to think there is room for genuine ethics in business. Coca Cola isn't an evil overlord plotting to take over the planet, it's just another business and it may have a lot of ethically questionable business practices but there's no doubt it's really only interested in money there's definitely money in 'ethics' these days. If anything I'm hopeful that Coca Cola is realising this and some of your ideals will rub off on it. Perhaps at the end of your 30 year plan it'll be Coca Cola that's had the makeover.
I'm nipping out to buy my pre workout bottle of Innocent right now.
Posted by: Jen | April 08, 2009 at 02:34 PM
Why not grow alone as "Red Bull" energy drinks? They didn´t need to sell to Coke to be in the world selling energy drinks. You were the hope of a better bev company...
Posted by: Richard | April 08, 2009 at 02:37 PM
No, Chris, it's not Godwin's Law or the like - I was making the point that the provenance of financing and the ethics of business partners matter.
You say "If it means that a brand such as Innocent can expand and be seen by more people then that is the main thing" but I didn't realise that was the idea of innocent. I thought ethics and fair trade and responsibility were the important bits. innocent is profitable and expansion for the sake of expansion is not always right or sensible.
And please try not to be so patronising - just because we're unhappy with such a big change doesn't mean we're petty people on soapboxes.
Posted by: Conor | April 08, 2009 at 02:38 PM
I can't express my disappointment. I am truly saddened by your naivety when you say 'in some small ways we may be able to influence their thinking too.' Don't pretend it's about anything but the money and a loss of innocence. One less customer.
Posted by: Debra | April 08, 2009 at 02:40 PM
As an ex-resident of Shepherds Bush, I've watched Innocent grow into a fantastic company over the years - now, you've gone and ruined it all. Don't see any problems with Coca-Cola? Ask Mark Thomas:
Posted by: Suse Bentley | April 08, 2009 at 02:41 PM
Guys as long is this is a good thing for you this is great. It is your business, and you can do what you want. Coke started out life as one product in one store in Atlanta and I wish Innocent the same phenomenal success they have had.
I love your products and will continue to buy them come what may. It makes no never mind to me who owns you as long as your products still taste so good.
Best of luck with your new venture.
Posted by: Alex | April 08, 2009 at 02:42 PM
Sorry, but you have lost another customer.
I think the 20% that Coca Cola now have of your business will mirror the downturn in sales you are about to experience.
Posted by: Darren | April 08, 2009 at 02:44 PM
In one word greed! why the rush to expand over night? seems to me you have killed the goose which laid the golden eggs. You still have a great product ,but, created by a trio of turncoats. We will no longer buy your products - your really are silly if you believe any investor such as coca-cola will not interfere - fire whoever carried out the due-diligence.!
Posted by: Phil | April 08, 2009 at 02:48 PM
Could you have picked ANYone less ethical than Coke?! Good grief almighty :o(
Have ANY of you been near a bookshop lately?! Obviously not, or you'd've at least glanced at Mark Thomas' damning recent account of Coke and all who sail in her...
I'm gutted. Even more gutted than when Green & Blacks sold out to the Cadbury behemoth. No more Green & Blacks choc and no more Innocent (ha, the irony) Smoothies for me. Life just gets narrower and narrower...
'You've been had' doesn't even seem to cover it. I'm stunned that you could be so gullible, frankly. And just SO completely gutted.
Someone said you'd sold your soul - I feel more like you've sold mine (old Dickie Mustard above may well have a point!) :o(
Posted by: Vanessa H | April 08, 2009 at 02:48 PM
I am extremely dissapointed that you have chosen to link yourself and accept money from a company such as Coke whose ethical values are extremely suspect especially within the 3rd world. I personally have boycotted Coke products and therefore will not be buying your products any longer.
Posted by: Luisa Butler | April 08, 2009 at 02:49 PM
While from a business perspective I can understand your position; after all is Coca-Cola sooo much worst than a pension or other investment fund?
I still try to figure what's in it for Coca if there is no real intention to increase investment and presence at some point in the future?
Just a 10-20% of Innocent benefits? That sounds like very small fish for Coke...
And still it wouldn't solve the fact that your are signing a pact with the devil... why bother giving money to charities and developing nation when at the same time 10-20% of your benefits will go to the people that ruin water/soil in india and have very close ties to union representative murderer in Columbia.
Or maybe you are becoming the product (RED) of Coke... a cheap way to look good, next to Nike and Apple sweatshop...
This is really a sad day for small independent, ethical companies. Your are not the first (Ben & Jerry, Green & Black, ....) and probably not the last; but that's not enough of an excuse.
A sad ex-customer, sorry but I don't want any of my money paying for worker blood.... whatever "independent" a business unit you'll be.
Posted by: Stephane Mabille | April 08, 2009 at 02:52 PM
My only issue is that having seen that abysmal advert with Duffy in it at the weekend, I had pledged to myself never to buy a Coca Cola product ever again. Nevermind.
I was never too hung up about all that ethical stuff anyway. It's the taste and Carton based funnies that keep me buying!
Posted by: Paulypaulpaul | April 08, 2009 at 02:52 PM
I am appalled and so disappointed that you could choose a company like Coke with their well-known track record of ethical crimes across the globe. Innocent's once-lovely products are now off my shopping list. For good. Shame on you.
Posted by: Anna B | April 08, 2009 at 02:54 PM
I had my first innocent smoothie in Brighton in 1999 - on a blustery December day and I was going to see Blur later on.
I fell in love instantly - the mango & passion fruit smoothie was the best I'd tasted, I loved the little dude with the halo and laughed along with the funny little messages.
Since then I have only bough Innocent smoothies, with or without the cute knitted hats, followed your blogs and newsletters, been to the Fête and the festival before that, promoted you at every opportunity, hailed you as the perfect modern employer, feeling strangely proud when seeing you & your staff on the news and always harbouring this secret little dream of one day working at Banana Towers.
You will still sell smoothies, the product may well be continue to be as good, likelihood is that you will continue to grow and that the only loss felt will be mine...
But right now, I just feel a little bit heartbroken.
Posted by: Trine | April 08, 2009 at 02:56 PM
Like most people I am very disappointed in you. To buy your smoothie now would be to give my money to coke, who would then spend it on child labour, exploitation and the destruction of natural resources.
I'm sorry, but it's just not good enough.
Posted by: Lindsey | April 08, 2009 at 03:05 PM
Such a shame lads. You were the little guys. Now you aren't. And to do it at this time is bizarre - with all the trends about authenticity, going back to 50's values, etc... you have mistimed this really really badly.
You are so much more than your product - your brand stands for independence, power of belief, the little man. You've really damaged that and it is a staggering shame...
I really do wish you all the best but think in years to come (and not that many to be honest) you will hugely regret it
Posted by: Si | April 08, 2009 at 03:05 PM
A lot of these comments are a little OTT. The USP is gone! How will I define myself as a green consumer? *sob*
If you don't like the Coke investment, exercise your consumer right and buy something else. Quietly and calmly...
And if you want to be really green, make your own smoothies!
Posted by: Aaron | April 08, 2009 at 03:05 PM
There are similarities between this sell-out to Coca Cola and the sell-out that Green and Blacks had to Cadbury Schweppes. Whilst it wouldn't be fair to compare the two too closely, there is a predicatable trend that to expand you must embrace the world of mass corporation.
Innocent must have felt that to take the business to the next level this would be the most beneficial relationship. It could have survived and continued to deliver a healthy profit without this foray, but then that's a business decision that I'm sure what not taken lightly whatsoever.
Whichever way you cut it, this goes against the core principles at the heart of the company. Consumers are very savvy, and whilst we understand business requirements mean making tough decisions, it cannot be underestimated that this will have a long-term negative effect. Ironically enough though, sales will increase due to the increase in disctribution.
Will I continue to buy Innocent? Only if they stop pretending they're something they're now not going to be.
Posted by: Chris | April 08, 2009 at 03:06 PM
This is disappointing, another Body Shop situation as far as I am concerned. Why should I not buy from the supermarket own brands now? Just another corporation.
Posted by: RB | April 08, 2009 at 03:08 PM
Fine to get investors but COKE? they are the most evilest corporate giants going, surely there was a more ethical company that could have given you some money. We shall have to think very hard now if we purchase innocent anymore, (we did buy weekly.)
Posted by: s smith | April 08, 2009 at 03:08 PM
oooh no innocent what have you done?
not so innocent anymore!
Posted by: rachel | April 08, 2009 at 03:12 PM
Yep, minus another customer here too.
Posted by: Tom Ward | April 08, 2009 at 03:19 PM
With all these customers deserting you I hope Coke can export your products before the smoothies go off!!
Posted by: Gareth Thomas | April 08, 2009 at 03:20 PM
Said it before - a few years back - and will say it here again....Innocent were never, ever more than 2 ex McKinsey Consultants (the uber-consultants of the corporate world)and an ex Coca-Cola (isn't that a coincidence..) Marketing exec's business plan of how to make a bucket-load of money by building a brand. They knew that hippie ethics were highly marketable to the latte culture we had become, they knew that they would have to build a 'story' with the requisite hippie factor (note: the story is made in advance and then acted out eg 'we'll go to a music festival - cos that'll sound good when we retell it in our corporate branding and will be congruent with the hippy thing...'). They will have studied the bejesus out of Ben & Jerrys and various other brands that have done this before them(given their backgrounds they would have had to keep up with the latest - mostly US - business trends).
Innocent have built a beleiveable story around them being relaxed and laissez faire and that all this has almost happened by accident to 3 guys who happened to like fruit juice...ahem , that'll be a 'no'.
Innocent were a marketing company - they've never made their own juices but subcontract to 'secret' contractors (who no doubt make juices for umpteen others) so they've never been really interested in making juice (apart from when they had to , to build a story....eg that music festival thing...). No, they been much more interested in selling juices than making them.
They were never that Innocent anyway given there unwillingness to support organic fruit and vegetable producers.
As an exercise in how to build a brand, they deserve a round of applause and the ex Coke Marketing exec will now be back at Coca Cola head office with enhanced standing and McKinsey and Bain Consulting will be taking the other two back to once again prowl corporate boardrooms (with their ties back on, naturally)
No matter what you think, the boys done good by their standards.
Posted by: C Meikle | April 08, 2009 at 03:23 PM
It's not about whether Innocent drinks are going to continue with their own ethos or adopt that of coke.
It's about what coke stands for - Murders in Columbia, ground water polution in India, huge market domination and even links right back to supporting the Nazi Party in the second world war (were you aware that they financed Nazi Propaganda?)
Sadly, dissapointed people at Innocent.
Loved your company, loved your ethos, branding and drinks.
There are no excuses or arguments you can put forward that will ever entice me to buy your products or advocate your company again.
Posted by: Jemma | April 08, 2009 at 03:27 PM
Thanks to everyone who's posting comments. We're jumping in to correct inaccuracy where possible.
To correct the comment by C Meikle (3.23pm), none of the founders has ever worked for Coca Cola. Adam worked for a short while for Virgin Cola in the 1990s, which is what you might be thinking of.
Also, it was Adam who worked for McKinsey, whilst Jon worked for Bain (another consultants), whilst Richard worked for an advertising agency. So only one person worked at McKinsey.
Posted by: dan at innocent | April 08, 2009 at 03:31 PM
I love innocent drinks and part of that is because of what the company stands for. The bargain that innocent strikes with its customers is one of trust and that is a delicate platform on which to build a business. I think the guys are all too aware of this and we have to have a bit of faith that they will continue to respect that trust regardless of who there investors might be.
Right, that has taken my mind off my mouth ulcer for a few seconds. You've no idea how distracting it is. Guys - go and invent a smoothie that cures mouth ulcers. I know you're busy with the business but if you could knock this out before 5pm it would be much appreciated.
Posted by: Alan from Scotland | April 08, 2009 at 03:38 PM
I have read the comments posted,if things are to change in the world then we all have to make an effort to change them.
I don't agree with coca cola's ethics, but neither did a lot of people agree with sir Winston Churchill in the war years, but he did a good job, and as history shows is now very highly thought of.
To stop supporting Innocent in their work could mean their demise but it would also mean that coca cola have an even greater slice of the Market.
I for one will still buy your products.
Posted by: Anita | April 08, 2009 at 03:39 PM
I'm sorry, but I think it's a huge mistake. I stopped going to Pret when McDonalds bought a minority stake.
Put another way, every time you buy an Innocent (which perhaps isn't so innocent any more), you are buying a Coca Cola product. People liked Innocent because it was small, independent, standing up to the big guys, British, and a bit unusual. Now it becomes part of a cynical marketing campaign, which will be marketed to make Coca Cola look good.
Posted by: Elizabeth | April 08, 2009 at 03:40 PM
This reminds me of a friend's Dad who pretends to be a "hippy" but is quite happy to capitalise on rocketing house prices by being a property developer ensuring all properties have massive energy hungry fridges and 8 nozzle power showers. Very disappointing.
Posted by: Roo | April 08, 2009 at 03:49 PM
20% of our profits go to Gordon Brown, does that mean that we have all lost our moral values and have to behave differently? No it does not. Ok so that is a bit of an extreme example but until anything changes I don't think people have reason to complain. Innocent is a business after all and I am willing to bet that the people who are working there right now are pretty hurt by all your comments. I'm also pretty confident the founders know the ethics of Coke and have a good reason for going into business with them. Who knows, maybe coke want to change?! (Stranger things have happened). Either way like it or not Innocent is a business and this makes perfect business sense. If the atmosphere changes, if the ethics change, if the news letter changes, if things go south I would stop buying their products but until that happens this is just plain unfair. We are in a recession after all.
Posted by: Lou | April 08, 2009 at 04:02 PM
There was spoof on the daily mash about this and now its been removed.
Apparently Innocent's appearance on a Channel 4 News report criticising Coca-Cola was removed from this site.
Is this an indication of how things are going to be at innocent?
Posted by: mark | April 08, 2009 at 04:10 PM
I realise now that I have been foolish for believing your branding all this time. Expansion at any costs is what megacorps like Coca-Cola do. They sell mixtures of sugar, caffeine and tapwater in cans, to people in developed and developing countries globally, and have no interest in the negative effect on their customers' health at all -- they simply want to sell yet more to them every year. Your quaint branding and newsletters now land with a heavy thud. Why on earth did I choose expensive Innocent smoothies when I should have chosen cheaper own brand smoothies from supermarkets who are just like you -- expansion crazy and lusting for global domination. Goodbye.
Posted by: Steve Johnson | April 08, 2009 at 04:12 PM
Tricky one, this. On the one hand, it's like being in the Dragon's Den... it only makes sense to pitch to dragons with expertise in the area you want to move into... so an investment global drinks behemoth is the natural choice if you want to be as powerful and universally recognised as Coca Cola. And everyone who loves you want to see you succeed.
On the other hand, this takes away from one most prominent and well-regarded USPs of Innocent: the (seeming) loveable rogue, the local underdog, who began life as a festival stall and prides itself on ethics, health and quality. This is now somewhat compromised by the link to Coca Cola, no matter how tenuous in practice.
May prove hard to swallow for many of your fans, I'm afraid...
Posted by: FruitBat | April 08, 2009 at 04:21 PM
Bad Move guys.
Love your products. Used to admire your ethics.
I'd have sent you a tenner if you'd asked !
As my old granny (never actually) said:
"If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas."
Posted by: Kev | April 08, 2009 at 04:31 PM
I have been an Innocent supporter for many years - almost since they strated. I am driven by one thing, and one thing alone - taste. I have tried all of the other smoothies and nothing matches up to an Innocent smoothie.
Reading all of the rantings of the negative tree huggers above I feel very sad for them. Sad because they are going to give up their taste buds for the sake of some strange belief that businesses are run for their good. Sad because they think that by not buying Innocent they will do harm to Coke. Or do they want to do harm to Innocent in a sort of dranged sense of retribution?
As always I wish the staff at Innocent Towers well in all of their endeavours. I will support you as long as you produce the best smoothies around. I believe evryone else should as well. take a look at history. name me one idealist that produced a good product that lasted. Idealism never lasts.
Posted by: Hugh | April 08, 2009 at 04:33 PM
Hugh, I salute you!
Posted by: Millicent | April 08, 2009 at 04:38 PM
:/ I can't believe that probably 99% of the people writing this are adults..
Isn't it about time we forgot about the Nazis, Coke-wise? That was so long ago that everyone's dead now..
I'm not saying to forget the Nazis and what they did, but if they were around now, I doubt very much coke would have anything to do with them.
Also, Saying that Coke is 'ignoring' the health problems is sorta dumb.. they're not forcing anyone drink their stuff, it's peoples own choice.
Take responsibility for your actions people.
Posted by: Emma | April 08, 2009 at 04:38 PM
give em a chance!
Posted by: madelyn | April 08, 2009 at 04:39 PM
First McDonalds, now Coke, what next....Nestle??
Posted by: Bex | April 08, 2009 at 04:47 PM
I take there will be a rebrand to ...
sorry, you wont be getting my pennies any more. Why didnt you take a leaf out of howies book and let a big boy with a conscience buy in.... i.e. Timberland. They stuck to their principles. It seems like yours were all marketing blah.
I'm positive this one is going to be in the Corporate Strategy textbooks in a few years time in the 'disastrous decisions' chapter. You will just be like all the others now.
Posted by: Graeme | April 08, 2009 at 05:00 PM
I'm a coke boycotter. I'm still contemplating whether or not to stop buying innocent smoothies altogether knowing that a proportion will go to coke.
You guys may have gained a few million new customers across Europe but you've certainly lost many of your most loyal in the UK.
In the long run, I doubt you'll be able to fight off coke (they'll be able to say to Pepsi - "look! We have innocent. They're better smoothies than your Tropicana ones. Ha ha!"). But I really hope you do and you stick it out.
Good luck to the 3 original founders and I hope the £30m is really worth it and listen to everyone's warnings. Stand up against the giants.
Posted by: Patrick | April 08, 2009 at 05:23 PM
Shame on you, Innocent! You have lost your innocence now. Coke gets to say "we invest in ethical companies", you get to say "we sold out to the big guys who are as unethical & un-innocent as it is possible to be (reference: S American murder in the factory over union membership & Indian farmers' livelihood ruined etc etc etc, need I say more??)". Why do you see your side of the deal as a good one? I heard Mark Thomas speak at the Cambridge Union: he is a good person, has no reason to lie and has researched the company thoroughly - I believe him when it comes to ethics, not you!
Posted by: Clare | April 08, 2009 at 05:31 PM
It's made me really question my purchase of Innocent smoothies. People have commented on how coke and Tesco's are equally wrong and how then all supermarkets are.
Therefore, the decision to be supported by coke even if it is only 10% has been a great inspiration to re-evaluate my ethical values and my attempts to be green which aren't as strong as I want or need them to be. It has woken me up to your not the first and certainly not the last company to make this decision, big business rules right? I don't blame you that's how it is, that's what we have to respect to survive and to be able to consume more.
So that's me done with supermarkets, innocent smoothies and those things we think are green but know probably aren't that green on those shiny shelves.
For me personally what is a negative and another lost customer is also a beautiful positive that I no longer wish to be part of this consumer nonsense this is the excuse I've been waiting for to take control and just blinking make my own.
So long, peace and fruit.
Posted by: Jodhi Doherty | April 08, 2009 at 05:35 PM