Innocent has taken money from the black fizzy devil, or Coke to you and me. The smoothie company that prided itself on its ethics has finally bent to market pressure, fallen to its knees and abased itself to the murderous, union busting, water stealing Coca Cola company.
It appears that a man's morals can be bought for £30 million. Or at least 20% of them. Of course they are not alone, last year Coca-Cola purchased a 40% stake in the US organic company, Honest Tea. Soon, like a hunter with an array of stag's heads mounted on his wall Coke will be able to point to a whole slew of "ethical" companies that it now owns a major stake in and give a smug, avaricious grin.
According to Ruth Mortimer, the associate editor of Marketing Week magazine, businesses who take over smaller, niche brands are too smart to kill off their new acquisition's attributes. "I don't think most shoppers will be especially concerned as long as they see no obvious differences in the way that Innocent behaves or communicates".
That's absolutely right. As long as consumers think it's ethical, as long as they don't actually see anyone being exploited or notice dodgy business practices Innocent remains a viable business. It does not follow however that Innocent remain an organisation with ethical policies worth the recycled paper they are written on.
Richard Reed, one of Innocent's founders, said he felt safer with Coke by his side. "We have got an older brother. We are still on the programme to fight the bullies but we have got this older brother to call to the school gate to sort them out".
So basically you're going to "fight the bullies" by having Coke beat up your business rivals, how progressive. With Coke by your side who knows how much good you could do in the world! Well let's look at how Reed explains the reasoning for the increased investment;
"On Continental Europe, only 20 per cent of supermarkets have smoothies. But the big boys, Chiquita and Tropicana, are moving in quickly. We could carry on doing it piecemeal; the reality was we didn't have the luxury of time in Europe, because everyone has seen what we have done in the UK."
So with Coke's money they get to beat other companies to a monopoly across Europe and then, possibly the world. What a vision of hell where no matter where you go in the world all you get to drink is a Coke owned smoothie. They aren't even that nice. It's already hard enough to avoid buying a Coke owned product, Innocent just made it that little bit harder. I'd rather drink the black stuff, at least there's no veneer of fake-respectability tainting the taste.
But Coke is buying something more than a business opportunity here. They also buy association with something that looks like ethics. The company even went so far as to deny that Coke had been involved in the murder of trade unionists or environmental destruction in India. What a tosser. Mark Thomas has something specific to say on this.
Amit Srivastava of the International Campaign Against Coca-Cola says that;
By becoming part of the Cola machine Innocent loose any pretence they had of being an ethical company. When Reed tries to excuse Coke's past behaviour it demonstrates as clear as day that the distance between ethical businessman and condoning murder isn't actually as far as we might have thought, it's just the width of a £30 million cheque.
"innocent, honesty, healthy, ethical and green are hardly the words that come to mind when describing Coca-Cola's practices around the world. In fact, it is quite the opposite, and exactly the reason why Coca-Cola is seeking relationships with such innocent and honest sounding brand names. It is a good marketing move because it is deceptive.""The Coca-Cola company has been under fire for its practices in India, where communities living around its bottling plants are facing severe water shortages as a result of the company's operations. Two bottling plants have been shut down and a study financed by Coca-Cola itself has recommended that the company shut down another plant because it denies people their fundamental human right - access to water."