Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - If Innocent Drinks Sells a Stake to Coca-Cola, Will It Harm the Brand?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - If Innocent Drinks Sells a Stake to Coca-Cola, Will It Harm the Brand?

Article excerpt

The drinks giant is reportedly in talks with small-scale operation Innocent over acquiring a pounds 30m share in its business. But would the smoothie firm regret allowing Coca-Cola to buy into it?


Small brands being acquired by bigger companies is always going to have its critics, but for a brand to expand overseas, the right financial investment and strategic leadership is critical to success - and it does not have to be detrimental to the smaller brand.

Cadbury's involvement with Green & Black's has given us the best chance of delivering accelerated growth globally, while allowing us to retain the integrity of a smaller business and staying true to our founding principles, which is important to our consumers.

While Innocent may consider involving Coke to achieve global growth, it is crucial for Innocent to maintain the credibility, integrity and entrepreneurial spirit that made it a success in the first place. That said, it is in Coke's financial interest to keep the brand as a separate entity to its existing soft-drink empire. It has got it this far, after all.


I was dead against Innocent's partnership with McDonald's a few years ago. The brand was riding high, feelings about the fast-food giant were very negative and the realistic volume opportunity seemed small. But, without wishing to be contrary, I actually think the potential deal with Coca-Cola is a smart move.

For a start, Innocent's business is now in freefall - down 20% (pounds 27m) in 2008. So it has some very pressing commercial problems on its hands that it must address - or it won't have much of a brand to protect in the first place.

Second, one of the key factors behind Innocent's decline has been PepsiCo's highly aggressive launch of Tropicana smoothies - so a deal with Coke should level the playing field, give it some distribution clout, accelerate international expansion and drive grocery and impulse sales in a way that the McDonald's deal has not done.

Coca-Cola does not attract the same level of hostility as McDonald's, so I suspect the perceptual downside will be minimal, rather like it has been with Cadbury's purchase of Green & Black's.


'It's a bit like Cliff Richard hooking up with Pamela Anderson,' says one of my partners. …

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