Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks
Industry Beverage
Founded 1998 (1998)
Founder Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Area served
Key people
Douglas Lamont (CEO)
Products Drinks
Owner The Coca-Cola Company (90%)

Innocent Drinks is a company that makes smoothies and juice sold in supermarkets, coffee shops and various other outlets. The company sells more than two million smoothies per week.[1] Innocent is over 90% owned by The Coca-Cola Company.


Innocent was founded by three Cambridge University graduates: Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, then working in consulting and advertising. The three were friends at St John's College, Cambridge. In 1998, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London. People were asked to put their empty bottles in a "yes" or "no" bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the "yes" bin was full, with only three cups in the "no" bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned. After quitting their jobs, the three struggled to find investment, but eventually had a lucky break when Maurice Pinto, a wealthy American businessman, decided to invest £250,000.[2] In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to taking the product to market.[3]

In 2007 McDonald's began a five-year trial of using Innocent smoothies as part of their Happy Meals. Feedback from customers led McDonald's to drop the product in 2012.[4] However, in 2015, the Chiquita Smoothie was replaced by two varieties of Innocent smoothies in The Netherlands.[5]

Revenue for the company declined in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis which led to an overall loss of £8.6m.[6]

On 6 April 2009, Innocent Drinks announced on its website an agreement to sell a stake of 10-20% to The Coca-Cola Company for £30 million, with the three founders continuing to retain operational control.[7] As a result of the takeover Ethical Consumer magazine reduced their ethical rating for the company.[8] In April 2010, Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% from 18% for about £65 million.[7] In February 2013 Coca-Cola increased their stake to over 90%, leaving the three founders with a small minority holding.[9]


Innocent Smoothie with a hat from the Big Knit Campaign

Smoothies are Innocent's primary product. An Innocent smoothie consists of whole crushed fruit and juices, but other ingredients such as carrots and ginger have been used in some drinks. Innocent also makes smoothies, fruit tubes and juice for kids; a not-from-concentrate juice range; Innocent Bubbles, which are carbonated; and coconut water.

Innocent launched a new range of "super smoothies" in March 2014.[10]


Health claims

Innocent's products have been promoted as a healthy option. However, a 250 ml bottle of ‘Innocent Smoothie’ contains 171 calories and 34.3 g of sugar. This is nearly 30% more than Coca Cola in terms of sugar content.[11]

Product recall

In October 2005 there were several reports of Innocent smoothies "exploding".[12] In 2007, Innocent recalled 100,000 bottles, stating that the explosions were caused by a natural fermentation of the ingredients.[13]

Advertising claims

In October 2007 Innocent was warned by the Advertising Standards Authority for making unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of their "superfoods" smoothies, stating that their marketing claims could not be backed up by medical science and ordering Innocent not to repeat them.[14]

In 2007 the European Union passed a new law, which took effect from 2009, requiring companies labelling their products as "superfoods" to justify statements that their products are "superfoods", "healthy" or "good for you".[15] Currently Innocent still uses the word "superfruit" in their marketing.[16]

Environmental record

In 2008 a report accused the company of making false claims by stating that their product was transported solely by boat or rail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when they were in fact trucked over hundreds of miles from the continent. Innocent's website stated that their drinks were "made in the countryside" whereas they were actually imported from the Netherlands. The company stated that the information on their website was out of date and misleading statements would be removed promptly.[17]

Innocent's products usually come in standard plastic or tetrapak bottles or beverage cans instead of reusable glass containers.[18] Innocent claims that they try to reduce the amount of packaging as best as they can and use recycled plastics and FSC-certified wood for cardboard-based packages.[19]

Charitable donations

On 27 May 2011 the Daily Mail reported that the company had held back money that was intended for the Innocent Foundation. The reporter said: "Analysis of its financial records has revealed £520,000 intended for the foundation was kept in the company’s bank account, where it could collect a higher rate of interest. Innocent – which since last year is now majority owned by Coca-Cola – has not donated to the foundation for the past three years as it has made no profits". Richard Reed responded: "The foundation is run by independent experts ... and it was legally audited. The money was kept in that account at their request, within financial regulations, and they benefited from it. They could have taken the money out at any time."[20] From 2011 onwards, the company committed to give a minimum of £250,000 to the Innocent foundation in years when there is no profit made, to allow its work to continue. In 2013, the company increased this annual commitment to £950,000 per year for the next five years.[21]

Health and Safety

In 2014 the Gerber Juice Company, which manufactures Innocent smoothies, was fined £80,000 for errors which resulted in the death of an employee at their factory in Llantrisant, South Wales. Gerber pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety laws. Gavin Bedford had been dismantling machinery at the plant when he was struck by falling pipework, an accident which resulted in his death. No risk assessment or detailed plans for removing the pipework had been produced and the supervisor who was overseeing the operation was not qualified for demolition projects and had not received any relevant health and safety training related to the task. Liam Osborne, an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive stated that there had been a basic failure to plan, manage, and monitor.[22]


  1. "Coke buys into Innocent smoothies". BBC News. 7 April 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  2. Tryhorn, Chris (7 April 2009). "Smoothie operators Innocent tread familiar path to lucrative deal". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  3. Growing Business Video: Richard Reed on struggling to find investment
  4. Reynolds, John, "McDonald's ditches Innocent Smoothies", Marketing, 15 August 2012.
  5. "Innocent Aardbei & Banaan", McDonald's.
  6. Salisbury, Peter,"Green Business: Innocent", Ecologist, 9 March 2011.
  7. 1 2 Steele, Francesca (9 April 2010). "CocaCola takes a bigger joke slice of Innocent". The Times. London. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  8. "Innocent smoothies' ethiscore cut by half", Ethical Consumer, 7 April 2009.
  9. Neate, Rupert (23 February 2013). "Coca-Cola takes full control of Innocent". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  10. "innocent Launches a New ‘Super, Natural’ Range of Smoothies", Food and Beverage News, 10 March 2014.
  12. Watson, Donna (22 October 2005). "YOU'VE BEEN MANGOED". Daily Record. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  13. "Fruit smoothies are a real blast". Europe Intelligence Wire. 19 January 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  14. Hickman, Martin (3 October 2007). "Innocent Smoothies found guilty of making false health claims". Belfast Telegraph.
  15. Hale, Beth, "Prove 'superfoods' are good for you, supermarkets told", Daily Mail, 30 June 2007.
  16. "things we make — smoothies", innocent.
  17. "Innocent Smoothies Guilty of False Green-Transport Claims?", Sustainable Brands, 4 August 2008.
  18. "things we make", innocent.
  19. "being sustainable", innocent.
  20. Tamara Cohen, "Innocent accused over charity 'con': Smoothie giant 'failed to hand over promised cash'", Daily Mail, 27 May 2011.
  21. "Finances", The innocent foundation.
  22. Robinson, Belinda, "Innocent smoothie makers fined £80,000 after worker killed by metal pipework that fell and hit him on the head", Daily Mail, 17 May 2014.

External links

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