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About the Author

Jodi Bush
PhD Student (Herts, United Kingdom)

I've had a longstanding interest in human rights, socio-economic development and the environment, and am currently undertaking my PhD in politics at the London School of Economics.

Post

Not so Innocent afterall

Published 10th April 2010 - 15 comments - 15423 views -

I was disappointed to read today that Coca-Cola has become the majority stakeholder in yet another beverage company - this time Innocent smoothies. It's particularly disappointing because in the UK, Innocent drinks have become synonymous with freshness, well-being and social-consciousness. I drink them because they're good for me, and because they come from an ethically and environmentally responsible company.

With Coca-Cola at the boardroom table, now I'm not so sure.

Take the following two adverts as an example. On top of being 100% fruit (and ipso facto good for ones health) Innocent smoothies are portrayed as an environmentally friendly choice. They also donate 10% of profits to charity.

 

 

This is in stark contrast to their new majority owner Coca-Cola - a brand that is synonymous with junk food, unhealthiness, and dubious ethics. Now that the two have become one, I'm not confident in the ability of Innocent to retain their purity. 

While the three founders of Innocent are still in control of running the business, and argue that Coca-Cola will not dictate the course of the company, one wonders what will happen if they ever need to undertake some cost-cutting.

It's just another depressing instance where a conglomerate has subsumed an independent brand, and in doing so has threatened everything that made it appealing in the first place.


Category: Health | Tags: food, business, companies,


Comments

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 10th April 2010:

    Jodi,

    Nice post! It’s amazing how giant companies such as Coca-cola try to market themselves as one that promotes health drinks. How ironic. If you research Coke zero, you will realize that there’s really not much difference with the sugar that’s in it.


  • Lara Smallman on 10th April 2010:

    The same thing happened a few years back with the Body Shop, bought by L’Oreal and I got worried, but the Body Shop seems to be staying true to their ethical roots - L’Oreal has cottoned on to what made it so successful in the first place. They realised that some people appreciate what goes into a product and where it comes from and are happy to pay a bit more. Maybe Coca Cola will do the same and preserve the Innocent brand?


  • Jodi Bush on 10th April 2010:

    @ Iris - thanks, and yes it is ironic. Recent adverts in london have been emphasising that Coca-Cola has no preservatives or artificial flavours - ok - but it can dissolve cement off builders tools! Mmmmmm healthy.

    @ Lara - yes, they’re clearly smart at branding and merchandising so perhaps they will keep it as it is. But what such takeovers/buy-outs demonstrate to me is that brand has absolutely no meaning. When I bought Innocent I believed in that brand, as a healthy and ethical option. Even if it does operate in the same way as before, deep down you know that Coca-Cola is a driving force behind it, and is profiting from its success. That’s sours things for me a bit.


  • Lara Smallman on 10th April 2010:

    That’s understandable. Do you think it will put you off enough to stop buying it altogether?

    Also, check this out: http://www.seeducation.org/learn-and-go/interview-from-a-hippie-with-a-calculator-to-tycoon-of-smoothies


  • Jodi Bush on 11th April 2010:

    Actually, it might. There are loads of other “no-name” brands which are cheaper, but still 100% fruit. I usually go for Innocent because I like the company, but now I won’t feel that need.

    I’ll check out the video… thanks. grin


  • Hemant Jain on 11th April 2010:

    Great post and it reminds me of an anecdote.
    So when Innocent was bought over by Coke, they came to our ad agency in London (where I used to work).
    The Innocent guys had been in before and everyone loved them.
    This time though a Coke executive was with them.
    Over 2 hours that followed, the agency people got out of the meeting shaking their heads.
    Innocent dream was over someone remarked…
    Funnily enough I used to buy innocent religiously as I loved what they stood for.
    I can’t stand that little bottle anymore. And it tastes horrible now. smile
    But then I have a thing for all things Coca-Cola!


  • Radka Lankašová on 11th April 2010:

    Mergers are everyday reality in our global world. They are usually good for shareholders. But I am not so sure they are always good for consumers….  Great post, Jodi!


  • Jodi Bush on 11th April 2010:

    @ Hemant - so you witnessed it with your own eyes. It really is a shame isn’t it. As you said it’s like the Innocent dream is over. When you look at the trajectory the company has taken, clearly the owners had very high aspirations, but now it appears they’ve sold out.

    Like you, I try to support companies that take a positive stance - fair trade, environmentally friendly etc. I’m even prepared to pay more for the privilege. That’s why I bought Innocent over other smoothies. Why would I bother now!

    @ Radka - yep, I’m sure the shareholders are pleased (at least for now!).


  • Aija Vanaga on 12th April 2010:

    Body Shop is owed by L’Oreal. Does it has changed?


  • Lara Smallman on 12th April 2010:

    Yes, four years ago: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/loreal-buys-body-shop-for-pound652m-470244.html. But no it hasn’t changed, if anything its social action projects, the ones it supports have since expanded.


  • Jodi Bush on 13th April 2010:

    @ Aija and Lara - I guess it just irks me in terms of principles. You have a two brands owned by the same company which espouse different values. It just makes it all seem very fake. The Body Shop (as with Innocent) was founded by someone who really believed they were making a difference. Perhaps the net effect of the companies actions are still the same, but now it just feels like a marketing exercise. A way to target a different sector of the public. It’s like unilever - they run the Dove “real women” campaign on one hand, but sell SlimFast shakes on the other. The hypocrisy bothers me.


  • Aija Vanaga on 13th April 2010:

    This is about globalization of market. I would suggest to try to perceive ownership different from performance. Be owned by gigant means to have chances for development and market extension. So far Body Shop haven’t changed, because in L’Oreal it is structures that it is owned invested, but as other branch of product line, strategy, design and etc.


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 13th April 2010:

    I agree with you Jodi. It stinks of hypocrisy and it looks like yet another marketing game, played in order to occupy wider markets: don’t like Coke? (how dare you) Here you go, an innocent smoothie, you green customer! Don’t agree with the bunny-tested anti-wrinkle cream? Here goes a natural shea butter for you! If a company really decides to convert to goodness, then it all has to convert, not just some parts of it bought for a lot of money.


  • Jodi Bush on 13th April 2010:

    @ Giedre - glad you share my point of view. It debases the moral standing of the company.


  • Lara Smallman on 13th April 2010:

    At the same time, maybe it upgrades the moral standing of the company that’s bought it?


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