Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Smoothie Sell-Out: the End of Innocence

I am a sucker for Innocent smoothies. The brand hooked me instantly: the contents (nothing but pure crushed fruit), the image of good wholesome sustainability, the charming ravings on the pack. Remember the one about Boyson, the guy who "invented" boysenberries? Madness.

I like the whole whimsical affair. I like the maverick-y yet ethical image of the product. I like how the things taste. Up to april this year I liked pretty much everything about Innocent smoothies.

On April 6th Innocent Drinks sold a twenty percent share of their business to Coca-Cola. And that really got my goat.

And not only mine. Thousands of customers who had hitherto happily slugged mango-and-passion fruit concoctions by the bucketful felt cheated out of their guiltless pleasure and made no bones about it. Innocence is - or was - the main selling point of Innocent Drinks, much more so than the nice taste or the preservative-free recipe. How often do you get to enjoy anything that doesn't harm you, the planet or local communities?

With brands like Innocent, product quality is hard to separate from ethics. Authenticity and constistency in running the business seems to directly affect the authenticity - the goodness - of the product itself.

One example is what happened to the Body Shop. It used to be a range of cosmetics that gave you both easy consciousness and glowing skin, most of the shampoos and body butters and lotions smelling so divinely that one was tempted to eat them. After the late Anita Rodick sold the business to L'Oreal (for almost 1 bn euro) the brand has never been the same. The new ranges smell like every other artificial ointment out there, and, what is worse, there is almost nothing left of the old "every woman is naturally beautiful" philosophy. In times past, Anita's opinion on anti-cellulite and anti-aging creams was: "You're better off spending the money on a bottle of Pinot Noir." When I saw the ads for the new anti-cellulite range of Body Shop shortly after the takeover of L'Oreal, I felt cheated as a customer and insulted as a woman.

I miss the old Body Shop. I miss the pleasure its products used to give me, the fruity and earthy and herby smells, the varying textures - rich and abrasive, smooth and permeating, the burn of the peppermint, the caress of the honey. But most of all, I miss feeling like a goddess while using them: a goddess with cellulitis, split ends and brittle nails, but a goddess nonetheless, a goddess just because.

With Innocent smoothies, I used to feel like a happy monkey gorging on its daily crushed banana-and-strawberry. I had banana-and-strawberry the day before yesterday and it tasted fine. Yet.

But Innocent already started making promises they can't keep: a banana-free smoothie with nettle extract supposed to be a "slim" option gave me the same feeling of cheat and disappointment as the anti-cellulite creme of Body Shop.

Loss of credibility is usually the ruin of ethical brands. Forfeiting the honesty that made them great is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. It just can't work.

So... I guess I will be making my own smoothies from now on. With bananas. Lots of them.


  1. That sucks. I hate when the huge companies buy smaller ones. They NEVER improve them.

  2. What I never understood is why do the small companies SELL? They'd make good money if they went on, and keep their quality.

  3. I LOVE fruit crushes, but there aren't any commercially marketed here in the States that I am aware of. I can only get them made at the local ice cream shops. Smoothies, by the way, are a yogurt and fruit mixture here in the States, which I despise. The fruit crushes, or chillers are fruit and ice blended which I adore.

    I have NO idea where you are, except somewhere in Europe. Maybe another post will be illuminating, but I've read from the beginning and so far I'm clueless.

  4. Right now, I am pretty much across Europe... When I settle down, I will probably post fiery rants about what is wrong with my part of the continent!

    And yogurtless smoothies, or fruit crushes are one of the best thing about Europe. I don't imagine one can freight them far though, they are supposed to be preservative-free and probably wouldn't keep on a long journey.