Editor’s blog: Innocent’s Tasty Pot to bring in the cash?

I’ve always rather admired Innocent. I know they’re horribly over-exposed, and I suspect that beneath every halo must lie some darker truths. But MT has a lot of affection for them, not least because we wrote one of the first articles about the company way back in 2000. And – althought the credit crunch has reportedly set them looking for a new investor – I think they are well placed to do well in the downturn.

I have an abiding memory of Richard Reed’s appearance at a round-table discussion we did at Claridges years back on people management. The table was filled with plenty of suits, including Digby Jones. Richard was late, finally striding in wearing a cheesecloth shirt that was slashed open to the waist, some baggy linen pants and flip flops (I swear fellow-diner Ruth Spelman, then of Investors In People, nearly swooned).

I also recall bumping into all three of them in an Italian airport, when Adam Balon confided in me that they’d just been coerced into their first ‘two for one’ offer with a supermarket, and had calculated they probably lost money on every sale made. I doubt if they get suckered into any such bad deals these days.

The’ve been doing very well, too, doubling their revenues in each of the last four years – and they give 10% of profits to charity. I was also right behind them in their experiment to sell their smoothies via McDonalds. Why shouldn’t the McDonalds demographic be given access to their products, despite the protestations of all those po-faced Maccy-D haters who gave them a hard time?

Now it seems that sales of Innocent’s smoothies may have fallen by as much as half in recent weeks, and the firm has revealed that it is looking for a new investor. A minority stake in what has hitherto been a fiercely independent outfit is reportedly up for grabs for around 35m, in order, says Reed, to finance the next stage of growth. But even without this cash they’ve already branched out beyond smoothies and their this Water drinks into food, with Innocent Veg Pots. I had one the other night, and besides the fact that the punnet isn’t recyclable and it gets bloody hot in the microwave, it’s not bad at all – if a wee bit pricey at 3.49. Think of them as yuppie Pot Noodles. Definitely not ‘the slag of all snacks’.

I’ve always been left slightly cold by the matey packaging notes on Innocent stuff. But I am a sour old fart. And even if the chatty, faux intimacy irks me ever so slightly, it’s been widely imitated and will serve them very well during the downturn. Innocent exudes an inclusive warmth that many big, conventionally-marketed rivals would kill for, and is run by a trio of seriously clever and committed entrepreneurs. We wish them well.

In today’s bulletin:
John Lewis and Waitrose sweat as sales plunge
New oil price boon for motorists
Editor’s blog: Innocent’s Tasty Pot of cash
Up your game in a downturn, with YouTube
MT’s Week in 60 Seconds
Win two FREE business-class bmi flights