Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Innocent founders are still smoothie operators

Zany photo shoots are beloved of many companies and their PR advisors - no company more so than Innocent, the maker of smoothies.

Its founders Adam Balon, Jon Wright and Richard Reed have been keen to demonstrate that they retain their hippy credentials tightly after being swallowed by Coca-Cola last year.

The men famously founded Innocent after setting up a stall selling samples of their drinks at a music festival.

Anyone who believed the men should jettison their day jobs and devote themselves full time to fruit drinks was told to throw their empties into one wastepaper basket, while those who thought otherwise were to use another bin.

According to Innocent folklore, the first bin was full, and the company established shortly afterwards. It went from strength to strength before catching Coca-Cola's corporate eye last year.

They emphasise that Coca-Cola, which has a 58% stake in Innocent, has been a gentle and nurturing parent, encouraging them to continue to innovate and giving them the financial muscle to do so.

But that 'bank of daddy' safety net has also enabled them to embark on a major expansion into fruit juices, which will see large 900ml and 1.35 litres of fruit juices for sale.

Indeed, Richard Reed has described Coca-Cola not so much as an oppressive controlling parent but a big brother ready to call on when needed. The acquisition of Innocent by Coca-Cola sparked memories of the fate of Green -amp; Blacks, founded by Craig Sans and Jo Fairley.

It was bought by Cadbury's in 2005. That dismayed many fans of Green -amp; Blacks, who feared the UK confectionery giant would sully the hippy ideals of Sans, who had started in the food business with an organic food company.

Now with Cadbury owned by Kraft, it's a new set of worries altogether, with Green -amp; Blacks reportedly contemplating breaking away from the Kraft clasp with a management buy-out - though the idea was swiftly quashed with a Kraft statement that it was staying part of its family.

There is a dearth of any kind of photo-shoot or positive PR opportunities since Kraft's takeover, with recent news confined to the shrinking size of a Dairy Milk from 140g to 120g.

Innocent, meanwhile, seems pretty untarnished by its change of parent.

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