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Marketing and Society

Case Study: Innocent

Team Member:



Yujing LI

Yueyue LI

Chengyuan QIAN

5 Dec 2010

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Innocent as an ethics driven company developed it first ethical strategy, 100% natural

drink, from the beginning of its business, mainly for commercial reason. After

realizing the change of consumer behaviour, it launched the other four ethical

strategies: sustainable ingredient, sustainable packaging, sustainable production and

sharing profits respectively. Operating business along with social responsibility results

in extreme successes both in financial performance and brand reputation. However,

the consistency of ethical practice is a crucial factor to maintain those achievements

and possibly an alternative solution for Coca-Cola issue.


Innocent Ltd., which produces smoothies with 100% natural fruit and vegetable, was

founded in 1998 by three young Cambridge university friends; Adam Balon, Richard

Reed and Jonathan Wright (InnocentDrinks, 2010a). From 1999 to 2008, Innocent’s

actual revenue grew from 0.25million pound to about 100million pound. In 2009,

Innocent maintained its leader position in smoothie market, accounting for 80% of

market share (Mintel, 2010). Furthermore, Innocent was ranked to be the most ethical

multinational companies in a consumer survey (Business insights, n.d.). However,

Innocent is now facing a reputation challenge as it sold the majority of its shares to

Coca-Cola, which does not seems to be an “innocent” company.

In order to analyze its outstanding accomplishment, this report will first discuss the

motive behind its ethical strategies whether it is a consumer or a company driven.

Then, it will follow by an evaluation of how successful these strategies are to the

company in both tangible and intangible aspects. Finally, the consumer responses for

the Coca-Cola issue will be investigated in further discussion and conclusion are

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Consumer Behaviour and Ethical Strategies

100% natural drink

This strategy was initiated from business aspect to grasp opportunity in soft drink

market in the UK. Combining the trend of health conscious and the popularity of

smoothie in the US, the three friends found that there was a room for them to enter

this market segment. Considering fruit juice market in the UK, the consumption per

capita at that time, 23.2 litres, was one-thirds less than that in the US (36.5 litres in

1998). What’s more, the smoothie industry was just at the beginning (Euromonitor,

n.d), which was dominated by the biggest smoothie company in the UK, PJs, failed in

terms of taste by using concentrates rather than fresh fruit (Brown and Grayson,

2008). Therefore, it was an opportunity to fill the gap in this market by launching a

brand which makes better tasted smoothies with fresh fruit. In order to differentiate

the brand, the three friends also decided to use this as their unique selling point. They

claimed that every provided product is made from 100% pure and fresh fruit, which


 No added sugar

 No concentrates

 No sweeteners

 No preservatives

 No added anything (InnocentDrinks, 2010a)

It was actually a great time to launch this strategy since right after that the UK’s

National Health Service’s introduced the ‘5-a-day’ campaign to drive the population

to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily (Euromonitor, n.d,). People
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then quickly realized that having a bottle of 100% natural smoothie was easier to

reach this quota. Hence, the sales revenue easily exceeded its original business plan

and thus, the strategy proved to be successful at this first place (Brown and Grayson,


Sustainable Ingredients

Following the successful introduction of a 100% pure smoothie, Innocent afterward

initiated sustainable strategies to restate its brand image as a healthy product and

ethical company towards ethical consumerism trend. A triple growth in ethical food

and drink spending in the United Kingdom (Table 1) evidently shows a fast growing

ethical trend by the British (Ethical Consumer Research Association, 2009). As a

result, a fairness of sourcing has been significantly involved in consumers’ purchasing

behavior as Mintel International Group Ltd (2003) showed that child labour, animal

testing, and exploitation of developing countries, accounting for 51%, 47%, and 31%

respectively (Table 2), are the most influential factor discouraging customers from

buying products and services.

Table 1.Ethical Expenditure during 1999 and 2008

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Source: Ethical Consumer Research Association, 2009

Table 2.Issues for stop buying products or services, November 2000

Source: Mintel International Group Ltd, 2003

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In 2003, a fair trading for the Third world, ensuring fair price and creating more

bargaining power for producers, became a vital factor among ethical consumers,

illustrated by a 50% of average growth of Fairtrade revenue during 2003 to 2007

(Ethical Consumer Research Association, 2003:2009) (Table3). This implies that

consumers are willing to pay a premium for ethical products; therefore, it is essential

that the company have to control their production process including raw material


Table 3.Sales revenue of Organic and Fairtrade products during 2000-2008

Source: Ethical Consumer Research Association, 2003-2009

During 2007, food mile was a new concern for ethical shoppers in Britain (Mintel

International Group Ltd, 2008) with two-fifths of shoppers requiring manufacturers to

source their raw material from local suppliers. This trend became stronger during

credit crunch in 2008 as the local products were perceived as another support for

domestic farmers and economics as well as a relief for the concern about food miles.

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Being aware of the concerns about the ethical sourcing, Innocent has aligned its

sourcing policy to address all these issues. Firstly, Innocent set its own minimum

standards for their suppliers, covering social and environmental concerns; for

example, minimum wage, child labour, land clearing and water pollution. These

standards are based on international recognized standards from Rainforest Alliance,

SA 800, ETI, and even Fairtrade (InnocentDrinks, 2010b). Furthermore, Innocent

gives a premium to suppliers certified by an independent environmental and social

organization especially Rainforest Alliance. This organization ensures sustainable

livelihoods and agriculture, and concerns not only environment but also people by

guiding farmers towards sustainability and preventing them from destroying their

local environment (InnocentDrinks, 2010c). For local source and food miles concern,

Innocent tries to source its ingredients mainly from Europe; therefore, it transports its

ingredients mainly by land or sea rather than airplane. However, the constraints of

higher cost of organic and local products, together with limited product type certified

in ethical organization are the main obstacles for innocent to fully comply with

consumer preference (InnocentDrinks, 2010d).

Sustainable Packaging

After launching the ethical strategy of sustainable ingredient, Innocent started to

improve its innovation of packaging materials since consumers began to concern

about environmental-friendly packages.

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According to a new study from (Marketing Charts, 2010), 94% of

respondents in the research concerned about environmental issues with 49% of them

rated themselves as very concerned (Figure 1). At the same time, 58.9% of the

industry executives believed that environmental concern was the most important drive

which influenced consumers to purchase products in ethical and sustainable

packaging (Business insights, n.d.). It is clear that the beverage industry is reacting to

the new consumer trend by adjusting their packaging strategies accordingly.

Figure 1.Percentages of different levels of consumer environmental concerns

Sources: Market Charts, 2010.

From another research (Wrap, n.d.) which was applied at Boots, 78% of all

respondents said that they would have more positive perception of the product or

manufacturer which was using recycled plastic as package. What’s more, the research

also found out that customers were more willing to buy recycled plastic packaged

products. One of the most typical case is that consumers are buying less bottled water

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today than they did one year ago based on the environmental concerns. Among these

consumers, nearly 60% of them directly pointed out that the environmental issue was

the main reason why they bought less (Market Charts, 2010).

Facing these increasing demands of environmental-friendly packaging, Innocent

established an ethical strategy called Sustainable Packaging.

From the research discussed above, it is believed that recyclable plastic is the most

significant ethical packaging innovation for the next five years (Wrap, n.d.). As a

response to this new trend, started from 2003, Innocent began to use bottles which

were made by 25% recycled plastic and then improved them to 50% in 2006. In 2007,

they became the world’s first company that uses a 100% recycled plastic bottles for

packaging which was the significant progress they had made. Meanwhile, Innocent

lightened its cartons which saved 100 tones of paper per year with a reduction of

carbon footprint of 250 tones per year (InnocentDrinks, 2010e).

After paying large amount of resources on improving packaging, Innocent expanded

its ethical concerns into other environmental issues which included global warming

and the reduction of carbon footprint.

Sustainable Production

Innocent became famous for its ethical business practices especially 100% fresh

ingredients. Meanwhile, concern for environmental issue especially global warming

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has increasingly developed among consumers. According to Carvalho and Burgess

(2005), concern for global warming was brought up to consumers’ daily lives by

media during 1999 – 2000 (Figure 2); therefore, consumers could sense the urgent of

the issue.

Figure 2: Distribution of newspaper articles on climate change: 1985 – 2003

Source: Carvalho and Burgess, 2005

From the graph, it can be seen that from 1999 to 2001, newspapers had increasingly

published articles about climate change which can be implied that consumer

awareness would increase accordingly (Figure 2). In 2006, consumer awareness for

global warming became stronger (Figure 3); therefore, they were likely to consider

brands which attached with carbon reduction (Bristow and Glynn, 2006).

Additionally, environmental issue and green lifestyle has turned into mainstream since

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2006 (Osman 2006, cited by Atkinson 2007),. It is possible that global warming were

at that time playing important role in consumer’s decision-making process.

Figure 3: Consumers’ opinions on global warming

Source: Bristow and Glynn, 2006

As well as consumers, many businesses also started to put environmental issue as one

of their priority as Financial Times (cited by Muldoon 2005) stated that a variety of

environmental business sector was growing such as energy-saving.

Since global warming has been increasingly perceived as a critical issue, to response

to this trend as well as to expand its sustainable framework, Innocent adopted its

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sustainable production strategy in 2006 (InnocentDrinks, 2010f). This strategy aims to

reduce its carbon footprint by working with carbon management organisation.

By promptly adopting this strategy, Innocent not only enhanced its credibility but also

gained competitive advantage. According to Harvey (2007), consumer takes into

account brand, which can reduce their carbon footprint. Since at the beginning,

Innocent has drawn its ethical image in consumer’s perception through sustainable

and natural ingredients, which contribute to its brand essence of sustainable business.

Innocent has probably stepped to a fully ethical business process, which has

completed its image of environmental concern in consumer’s view. Pascaude

(2007) claimed that consumer not only shifted in their attitude but also their behaviour

and, they were trying to adapt themselves into ethically purchasing. It seems that

Innocent’s sustainable production strategy, which built from consumer’s concern, is

playing important role raising its successful business nowadays.

Sharing Profits

Besides sustainable strategies, Innocent extended their ethical concern externally

through sharing profits by launching Innocent Foundation and cause related

marketing campaign ‘Big Knit’.

Figure 4.Consumer behaviour affect Sharing Profits

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These campaigns were developed because of the changing consumer behaviours.

Some interviews have shown that people’s charity awareness is quite strong , as one

interviewee stated ‘giving to charity gave a “warm glow” feeling and made the

individual “feel better about themselves”, regardless of the nature of the charity’

(Smeaton et al., 2004). This trend can also be seen from the increasing donation

figures. As it shown in Figure 5, UK Charitable donations for overseas development

have increased from 300 million to 700 million during last 20 years.

Figure 5.UK Charitable donations for overseas development and total household

income,1978-2004 (constant 2007 prices)

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Source: Atkinson, A.B., 2008

This high awareness now has transferred to the consumer behavior which impact on

the firms now. Holt,D.B. (2004) revealed that consumers made the purchase decision

based on three dimensions: quality signal; global myth and social responsibility.

Consumers expect companies to link the social problems to the daily operation. If

companies have positive impacts on charity organizations or NGOs, consumers are

more willing to buy their products. Another research (The Shape Edge, 2006 )

indicated that 46% of consumers said that involving in cause related marketing

campaign make them feel better when using the product. Hence, Innocent launched

two campaigns to serve consumer’s need.

Firstly, it founded the Innocent Foundation which would improve its brand image by

giving a minimum of 10% of profits to charitable project such as helping HIV sufferer

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(InnocentDrinks, 2010g). Through sharing the profits, Innocent allowed consumers to

contribute to society by every purchase of the Innocent drinks.

Another campaign is the ‘Big Knit’, a cause related marketing campaign which each

woolly hat-wearing smoothie sold, Innocent gave 50p to Age Concern to support

older people during winter. In order to get more consumers involved and spread the

word wider, they also encourage consumers to knit for the ‘Big Knit’.

Nowadays, consumers would like more information about the charity organization

which they donate. They expect the companies to listen to them. They also want more

participation in the charity campaign by themselves (MarketingWeek, 2010).

Innocent Foundation also realized consumer needs as stated above. Consequently,

Innocent developed an official website to inform and update their charity campaign

which enable consumer to know more about the Innocent Foundation and also

recommend project and NGOs through the website. Moreover, videos and pictures

from visiting their foundation project reassure where the money is going.

Kohlberg’s hierarchy of moral reasoning

In conclusion, to evaluate motive behind Innocent’s ethical strategy, the Kohlberg’s

hierarchy of moral reasoning will be used as a criteria.

Figure 6.Kohlberg’s hierarchy of moral reasoning

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Source: Kohlberg, L. and Hersh, R.H., 1977

According to this model, individuals adopt moral activity by the virtue of personal

gain in the pre-conventional level (Lovell, 1997). It is probably implied that 100%

natural strategy was implemented to differentiate and compete against the key player

in the market, PJ Smoothie, in 1998. Seemingly, this strategy can be defined in stage

2, the instrumental-relativist orientation (Kohlberg and Hersh, 1977) since it offers

high quality product to gain sales in the same way as ‘you scratch my back, I’ll

scratch yours’ (Lovell, 1997). After adopting other sustainable strategies such as

sustainable ingredients which sources from decent suppliers (InnocentDrinks, 2010h),

Innocent stepped up to conventional level, defining as an increasing awareness of

position in a society (Lovell, 1997). As to contribute to their brand value, Innocent

tried to create ‘good boy/nice girl’ image (Lovell, 1997). However, a gap of becoming

a truly ethical company needs to be fulfilled by intensively increasing an effort to

improve and execute its ethical practice consistently and completely. For instance, it

could expand its ingredients sourcing from ethical organization as currently only 2 of

40 different types of its ingredients were sourced from Rainforest Alliance, while the

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minimum standard has applied to the rest, constraining by cost of others ethical

sources; organic or locally-source (InnocentDrinks, 2010i). This could imply that

Innocent concerns more on financial cost or own interest than the ethical practice.


Evaluation of the success of ethical strategies will be discussed from two aspects

including both tangible and intangible view.

Tangible Evaluation

Launching sustainable strategies has elevated Innocent to an ethical company. This

elevation raises consumers’ buying interests by satisfying physiological need and self-

actualization need of human beings according to Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Figure 7.Innocent Revenue in 10 years

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Source: Fame, 2010

From figure 7, Innocent’s revenue dramatically increased during 2003-2007 when

most ethical strategies were launched. This implied that ethical strategies could be

considered as one of the factors that contributed to growing revenue. For instance, the

revenue increase almost 100% in 2004 after Innocent Foundation was launched In

2007, the revenue peaked at 112 millions when sustainable package (100% recycled

plastic) and sustainable production (reduce carbon footprint) were introduced in the

company’s practice.

Also, those strategies created unique selling point, which helped Innocent to maintain

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its market share in the smoothie market as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8.Innocent Market share in UK

Source: InnocentDrinks, 2008a and InnocentDrinks, 2008b

The most successful ethical campaign which should be mentioned is the Big Knit. It

creates not only a good image of Innocent but also establishes a close relationship

with customers. The high involvement of the Big Knit could be seen from the

numbers of the woolly hats Innocent received from figure 9. Moreover, this campaign

resulted in a significant increase in sales over a short period and raised nearly

£400,000 for Age Concern from 2003-2008 (InnocentDrinks,2008c) .

Figure 9.Woolly hats received in the first 5 years

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Source: InnocentDrinks, 2008c

Intangible Evaluation

Regarding intangible benefit, which is delivered from ethical strategy, the three-

legged green bar stool test will be used as a framework to evaluate Innocent’s brand

aspect. First of all, to clarify the framework, the brand will be able to stand out with

its ethical practices by three legs; approachable, believable and doable (Howell,


Figure 10.Intangible evaluation 3 dimensions

Source: Howell, 2009


To be approachable, the brand should be transparency in order for the customers to

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make educated choice (Howell, 2009). Innocent’s approachable leg is firmly stood by

its engagement with the consumers through a huge variety of contact points such as

Banana Phone, the hotline. Another way to show their transparency is working with

carbon management consultant organisation and providing information about their

carbon footprint practice. Also, Innocent created its web blog to update their news and

activities to consumers.


For Innocent, it started with a high quality smoothie that contains 100% fresh fruit

then it perpetually developed the ethical strategies. At the same time, consumers have

developed Innocent’s environmentally concerned image. According to the awards

from various organisations such as 2009 Barclays Green Leaders in Business Award

for sustainability strategies and initiatives (InnocentDrinks, 2010j), it appears that

Innocent is believable in their ability of running decent business.


Along with its growth in the market, Innocent expanded its ethical strategies in each

process from choosing fair suppliers, developing 100% recyclable package, adopting

carbon management program and setting up foundation. Focusing on their foundation

and cause related marketing campaign, especially ‘The Big Knit’, Innocent involves

consumers and raises money to charities (InnocentDrinks, 2010k). Seemingly, all the

practices which Innocent has already done are all doable

In conclusion, based on three-legged green bar stool, Innocent is firmly standing on

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its approachable, believable and doable legs. As a result, its consistency of conducting

ethical practices has paid off. This is shown not only from a large amount of awards

they granted but also their good reputation among consumers. Nowadays, Innocent is

not just a smoothie brand anymore, it seems to be an inspiration to young

entrepreneur to conduct their business based on sustainability and ethics.

Further discussion

In April 2010, Coca-Cola acquired a majority stake of Innocent which upped to

almost 60% (BBC, 2010). Meanwhile, the founders of Innocent claimed that they

would continue to lead their business, with no change or loss of control

(InnocentDrinks, 2010l). Different controversial and negative responses appeared

from public. And there are two reasons why the acquisition has led to such an impact

to Innocent.

The first and biggest reason is from the unethical brand image of Coca-Cola. As Mark

Thomas (2008) pointed out in his book, Belching Out the Devil, Coca-Cola has an

unethical history; for example, child labor issue in El Salvador and the breach of anti-

monopoly in Mexico affecting the world-wide reputation of Coca-cola.

Secondly, most consumers questioned whether Innocent would continue its ethical

route when it became bigger. Longenecker et al. (2005) indicated that small

companies had its own unique characteristics. In other words, small firms are likely to

be owner-managed and much more flexible than big corporations. After the

acquisition, sense of ownership might be a great obstacle for founders to successfully

manage and keep its original sustainability strategies.

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From the website, Innocent’s customers can be classified into 3 categories (Figure 11

shows three types of Innocent consumer). First of all, Enthusiasts had the highest

involvement to join the discussion and most strict to moral standard. They were

evoked by their own ethical knowledge and had strong perceptions in terms of this

association. They didn’t like Coca-Cola’s brand image and even boycotted this

acquisition. One of the massages left by disgruntled consumer Lorraine said ‘Another

customer lost. I really didn't mind paying the extra money for an ethical product, but

won't anymore.’ Conversely, Mainstream tended to welcome the cooperation. Some of

them treated it as a new chance for Innocent to expand. In some cases they were

loyalty customers of Coca-Cola as well. Some other people prefer Innocent smoothie

just because it is made of 100 percent pure fruit and contains abundant nutrition.

Additionally, it seems that Disengaged don’t care about acquisition. As it can be seen

from Innocent website, they were big fans of those two brands and didn’t care about

the stake transactions (InnocentDrinks, 2009).

Figure 11.Three kinds of consumer types of Innocent drink

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Consumers of Innocent

Expectations of





Referring to website observation, most of customer’s feedback can be implied that

most of the customers are Mainstream and Enthusiast who have high expectation of

company’s ethical strategies. The acquisition with Coca-Cola might disappoint some

of them. According to an ethical consumer magazine, Innocent's ethical score

suddenly declined from 12.5 to 6.5 out of 20 because of this transaction

(Belfasttelegraph, 2009).

Apparently, Innocent has tried to convince their consumers to believe that they would

continue ethical strategies and control the whole company as they used to do through

announcement. But from public aspect, some people considered that Innocent was not

so ‘innocent’ any more. Comparing with the abandoned deal with McDonald’s

(360Datamonitor, 2009), Innocent used to be more focus on their target consumers.

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Therefore, Innocent may come up with communication plan to assure consumers that

it will maintain ethical practices in the future.


Innocent has extremely succeeded in its five ethical strategies as most customers

perceived Innocent as one of the most responsible companies, both social and

environmental aspects during a peak of ethical consumerism. Moreover, those

strategies created effective brand value to Innocent and differentiated the company

from its competitors. Its ethical policy not only strengthens their ethical image and

reputation, but also creates a good practice for others companies. Those unique selling

points significantly enhance buying interests from customers and it can be seen from a

progressive increase in revenue in the last 10 years by almost hundred percent as well

as numerous awards relating to ethics. Although Innocent has already been recognized

as one of the most ethical companies, the consistent improvement and strictly

implement of ethical policies are required in order to elevate the company to

‘universal ethical principles orientation’ (Kohlberg, 1997), the highest degree of

ethical awareness which would benefit to both the society and the company which

aims to reduce its negative effects from operating its business.


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