After we announced last week that Coca Cola have bought a minority share in our business, lots of you got in touch via our blog, twitter, facebook, email and the banana phone with a whole host of questions - ranging from why we'd done this through to what that means next for innocent.
The things that people were most interested to hear were:
innocent remains a standalone business, and will continue to be led by Adam, Jon and Rich, the three guys that set up innocent. Coke have a minority investment only and are not involved in the running of the business.
We're going to continue to do what we've always done - making natural healthy food and drink, produced sustainably and supporting charities in the countries the fruit comes from.
The money raised is being paid into the business (not to the shareholders) to fund our expansion into Europe and so we can launch more natural healthy products.
But we thought it’d be useful to set up a Q&A section on our blog to answer some of the most commonly asked questions you’ve been asking by putting them to Rich (one of our founders) and filming his responses.
You can watch them in the little video clips below and as ever, feel free to post your thoughts as comments.
Why did you have to raise funds - couldn't you just have stayed as you are?
Why did you choose Coke as your investor?
How much do Coke now own?
Does this mean that some of the profits from innocent now go to Coke?
Do you really think you are going to be able to influence Coke's thinking?
Who is now running innocent and what will Coke's involvement be?
Isn't this deal against all that you stand for?
Are you now going to change the way you talk and act as a business?
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.
Way back in autumn 1999 we sent out our first email newsletter. It wasn't part of a clever digital marketing strategy. They didn't really exist in 1999. But we did know that there were 11 people who often sent us mail or phoned us up to ask us what we were up to.
So we asked them if they'd like to get our news in their inbox every week, instead of them having to visit our website.
They said yes, and an innocent tradition was born. We still send out our news every week (you can sign up for it here), and these days it goes out to thousands of people.
We're looking for the original eleven - the people who received the first ever email newsletter.
We've tried tracking them down in a number of ways, but so far we've drawn a blank. So if you think you were one of them, or you think you know who one of them might be, let us know. We'd appreciate it.
PS don't let the photo fool you. Those aren't the eleven people we're looking for. It's just our favourite photo of eleven people. See if you can work out who they are. Clue - it's not Arsenal's reserve team. Second clue - study the face of the young chap in the bottom left corner very closely - you might recognise him.
Here's a picture from that famous day at Jazz On The Green in August 1998 involving two bins, one labeled yes and one labeled no. It could have gone one of two ways at that point, luckily it went the yes way.
We know that people sometimes stop by our blog for some business inspiration and an insight into our entrepreneurial world. Well that and trying to win a stack of great CDs by finishing a random sentence.
Anway we thought we'd share some stuff with you that will save you a good few quid on going to expensive conferences. First up is our Rich (above) giving a bit of background on innocent. You may notice that he's got himself a bit out of sync in the video. This happens every now and again especially in Monday morning staff meetings, a good slap on the back normally sorts it out though.
Then the nice people at Thoughtful have been very, well thoughtful and posted up some webcasts from an thought provoking recent conference on business and sustainabilty. It includes some interesting thoughts from our friend Russell (a connoisseur of interesting things) talking about Wattson's and stuff.
Last but not least is another great set of webcasts from Little Big Voice organised by our friends at howies in the summer. Russell turns up again here (he's good at talking) along with our very own Dan.
We had a special visitor at Fruit Towers yesterday. Prince Andrew came in to see what we do, and he had a good old wander round the place, talking to people, learning the art of making a proper smoothie and politely declining to wear a large woolly hat. Here are some pictures from the visit:
Little hats, by royal appointment.
Lucy puts on her best "I'm 2 feet away from an actual prince" face.
"And this is a tree."
Jess puts the stare on HRH.
"...and then I dropped the crown and my mum grounded me for three weeks."
We don't have time to talk about the people in masks and capes, but we do want to let you know a little more about the man who isn't wearing a mask or a cape.
His name is Jim Demetriou and he was one of the first people to ever sell our drinks, via his company JD Foods. When we started out, Jim was pretty much the first wholesaler to sell our drinks, shipping them in his nicely refrigerated vans, and delivering them to all sorts of delis and cafes and foodie places all over London and sometimes further afield.
Indeed, this author remembers the regular Friday afternoon drive to visit Jim in Tottenham, where we'd settle that week's accounts (which involved Jim giving us a few quid) and talk about the weekend and other important things.
Without good people like Jim we wouldn't have got our business off the ground, so we were honoured when he popped into Fruit Towers this week, for the first time ever. It seemed like the circle was complete; like when the ghost of Yoda turns up by the campfire at the end of Return of the Jedi. A special moment. Thank you Jim.
What with all of this hullaballoo about hamburgers, we've forgotten to post the winners of the birthday competition. We were given a friendly reminder today by Millie, who said "It's all kicked off a bit with the McDonalds debate hasn't it? Cor blimey - what a mess! Anyway … I'm totally indifferent to the whole debate, I'm more interested in knowing who's won the 'We are 8' competition"
So are we Millie. So we'll tell you...
We asked you to tell us the best fact you know about the number eight, with the best fact winning an assortment of eighth birthday tat goodies.
We've chosen our favourite fact and it was this:
You can chop a big lump of cheese into a maximum of 93 bits with 8 straight cuts.
Nice fact from Amy. Only problem is that Amy didn't leave a URL or email address with her comment, so Amy, if you're out there, get in touch with us at [blog at innocentdrinks co uk] and we'll send you your stuff.