Innocent, which sits at the head of a new wave of juice and smoothie producers invading the UK high street, has announced a plan to trial some of its drinks in McDonalds Happy Meals at selected restaurants across the UK. But, in a largely unprecedented move for a food and drink firm, innocent has invited open comments from consumers and posted a selection, both positive and negative, onto its website.
Several comments praised innocent for its open approach to the situation. The move has also allowed innocent to respond directly to inevitable accusations that it risked losing its high ethical principles by cutting a deal with McDonalds behemoth.
Innocent has founded itself on ethical practices. It plans to be using 100 per cent recycled PET bottles by June this year and gives 10 per cent of its profits to charity. "What it comes down to is this - we will never change our principles or the way we do business for anyone - McDonalds or anyone else," said Richard Reed, innocent co-founder, answering fears that such principles could be lost.
A poll of regular drinkers in recent weeks showed 72 per cent actively in favour of innocent putting its drinks into McDonalds, while 17 per cent said they didn't care and nine were opposed. Reed re-iterated that innocent remained an independent company with no intention of selling up to McDonalds, and argued the trial, if successful, would enable children to eat more fruit. Some were still not happy, revealing an ongoing streak of public anger against McDonalds.
One suggested innocent should rename itself 'just a little bit tainted Smoothies' and argued a point echoed by several contributors that: "While I can wholeheartedly see the good reason for trying to get kids/people in general to eat more healthily - if that is the case, they really shouldn't be in McDonalds in the first place." Others applauded the trial as a sensible business venture by innocent, and welcomed the fact that children may have the option of an innocent juice or smoothie when eating at McDonalds.
The trial shows how smoothies are fast becoming big business in the UK. Britons sank 34m litres of smoothies in 2006, compared to just 6.3m in 2001, and consumption is set to almost treble again over the next five years, according to figures from market research group, Mintel.
Success in this area is as much about fashion as technique, Chris Connon, managing director of Crussh Juice Bars, told BeverageDaily.com recently. "You need to be at the forefront of the latest trends. We are always looking for the next big thing."