‘Using the Innocent brand as a case study, evaluate whether companies within the health drinks industry can be truly ethical and sustainable in contemporary, capitalist Western cultures.’
Within the past decade the health drinks industry has evolved from modest beginnings to now becoming one of the most competitive and profitable markets within the United Kingdom and Europe. In 2007, esteemed marketing research firm, Mintel, published an analytical report revealing that sales of fruit drinks alone had increased by 523% in the years between 2001 and 2006 to an estimated total of 6.3 million litres (UK smoothie sales on the increase, 2007, www.caterersearch.com/Articles/03/01/2007/310622/UK-smoothie-sales-on-theincrease.htm). Unsurprisingly, this industry upheaval has coincided with an array and multitude of changes with regards to socio-economics, politics and to an extent, even psychological and philosophical changes within both governmental and consumer habits and, of course, is anything but coincidental. Despite the multitude of variables and changeable factors in regards to the industry growth, the unquestionable dominance in regards to consumer behaviours has been the global media, with highly publicised campaigns and documentaries providing supporting evidence in the demonstration of the decline of health and wellbeing. A notable example of such a cause within the United Kingdom and Europe is the NHS and governmentally supported ‘5 A Day’ campaign, in which the WHO (World Health Organization) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) published a report in 2003 to promote the recommended intake of a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day for the prevention of chronic illnesses such as heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and obesity as well as providing important nutrients and a vital component of a balanced and healthy diet (Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world, 2012, www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/fruit/en/index.html), whereupon the scheme was introduced to a multitude of countries, with varying levels of success. Along with this came the rise and infamous prominence of media coverage of health decline in the United States of America, often credited to the all-to-easy accessibility to high fat, high sugar, high calorie fast foods, perhaps most famously noted by documentary film maker, Morgan Spurlock, in his 2004 debut, ‘Supersize Me’, in which he challenged the notorious and ever-frequenting reports of lawsuits filed against global fast food chain, McDonalds, in regards to the subject of obesity. The film documented a one-month indulgence of (solely) the Restaurant’s food and drink products to record its effects upon the body, and to give evidence towards the suggested, and proposed hypothesis of the consequences of such an unbalanced, yet all-to-easy diet, as aforementioned (Super Size Me- Rotten Tomatoes, 2012, www.rottentomatoes.com/m/super_size_me). Perhaps the most significant brand in regards to industry dominance of more recent years is Innocent drinks. Estimated to have a market share of 77% of the £150m UK smoothie market, selling more than 2m smoothies per week by 2010 (Innocent smoothie maker says charity cash bottled for best interest rate, 2012, www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/may/26/innocent-smoothies-charity-cash). Fundamentally, the Innocent brand was conceived as a response to an issue or problem without immediate or apparent resolution, as are a multitude of products and brands that which are bought to the market each year, but in the case of Innocent, perhaps most notably, was the seizing of the consumer zeitgeist and
needs of the time. In the company’s publication ‘A Book About Innocent’ (D. Germain, 2009, p. 12), the principle conception of the brand is paraphrased: “At this stage we were 26 and living and working in London…it’s a great city, and there’s always something going on. Which basically means it is bad for your health. We were working long hours, followed by late nights, with no time for exercise…We realised there were a lot of people in the same position as us- who wanted to be healthy, but found that there was just something about modern urban life that conspired against us…So that was the problem we wanted to solve: to make it easy for people to do themselves some good…And to make it taste nice too.” Since the sale of the first smoothie for the drinks company in 1999, Innocent have gone on to demonstrate longevity in a historically competitive and often unstable market place despite economic downturn; most notably, with the collapse of the global services firm, Lehman Brothers on 14th September 2008, upon which the hugely influential corporation declared bankruptcy of over $600 billion (the largest in US history), causing global recession, which is often regarded as one of the most significant economic disasters of recent years (Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt, 2008, www.marketwatch.com/story/lehman-folds-with-record-613billion-debt?siteid=rss). However, despite the company’s undisputable resilience, it has not been without it’s critics in regards to both the products and the philosophy and motivations of the brand itself. Actively stating ‘we strive to do business in a more enlightened way’ (Innocent Juice, 2012, www.juice.innocentdrinks.co.uk), Innocent’s aspirations within the industry and retail market, aside from being merely a profit-driven, appear to be focused towards ethical production, responsibility and sustainable growth, though in more recent years this proposition has been under speculation as a result of various dubious reports, with examples such as their pledge of charitable profit-sharing, and, their (often infamously regarded) alliance with Coca- Cola, formed in 2010, of which will be analysed in more depth subsequently. Despite their humble beginnings, are Innocent truly still as innocuously- behaved as they would like the consumer to believe?
BIBLIOGRAPHY PRINTED PUBLICATIONS (EXAMPLE) -
Germain, D (2009), ‘A Book About Innocent’, London, Penguin Group
ONLINE RESOURCES -
UK smoothie sales on the increase, 2012 (ONLINE) Available at: www.caterersearch.com/Articles/03/01/2007/310622/UK-smoothie-sales-onthe-increase.htm. [Accessed 19 November 2012]. Innocent smoothie maker says charity cash bottled for best interest rate, 2012 (ONLINE) Available at: www.guardian.co.uk/2011/may/26/innocentsmoothies-charity-cash [Accessed 19 November 2012]. Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world, 2012 (ONLINE) Available at: www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/fruit/en/index.html [Accessed 20 November 2012]. Super Size Me- Rotten Tomatoes, 2012 (ONLINE) Available at: www.rottentomatoes.com/m/super_size_me [Accessed 20 November 2012]. Lehman folds with record $613 billion debt, 2008 (ONLINE) Available at: www.marketwatch.com/story/lehman-folds-with-record-613-billiondebt?siteid=rss [Accessed 20 November 2012]. Innocent Juice, 2012 (ONLINE) Available at: www.juce.innocentdrinks.co.uk [Accessed 20 November 2012].