From Zero to 80% Market Share. How Innocent Brought google-like business Freshness to a Traditional Industry.


The founder of Innocent Drinks, Richard Reed visited Startup Grind London for a 'fireside chat'. We talked about his personal journey and the journey of Innocent Drinks from start to ending up under the wings of The Coca Cola Company.

Startup Grind Richard Reed, Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks changed the smoothie market in the UK


You can find them in almost every supermarket in the UK. They come in every size and have a beautiful packaging. There is something in them that makes you fancy a healthy meal and on top of that, they are delicious. All these qualities have made Innocent Drinks the successful brand it is today, and behind that innocent bottle there is an impeccable marketing strategy that Richard Reed, one of the co-founders and CEO of the company shared with us.


How it all started


The three founders met a long time ago and from the very beginning they knew they were going to work together. What they never suspected, was that they would end up doing so in one of the most successful UK companies, winning awards again and again from both the industry and consumers. But before that, Richard and his two partners had to dismiss lots of ideas. "We didn't know where to start, the only thing we knew was that, whatever we came up with, it had to solve a real problem for people and it also needed to be healthy. The three of us had very different skills but share the same values. Altogether we make the perfect entrepreneur." The team was there, they only needed to find the right project to work on.


"One of our first projects was organizing parties at a local club. We needed as many people as possible from the beginning of the night, so we starting offering free pizza for those who arrived early. It was a failure because people came, had the pizza and left again." Maybe the strategy wasn't perfect but the entrepreneurial mind was starting to shine. "One of my first jobs was at a dog cookie factory picking up the fallen biscuits. One day I asked for a broom and the manager told me: Boy, you are the broom. I remember thinking: there has to be a better job than this. So I started to look for it. Maybe if they have given me the broom I'd still be there." Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone, especially if it's not very comfortable.


Innocent drinks come out of the fridge



Startup Grind Richard Reed Innocent Drinks


Finally they came up with the millionaire idea and started to work on it. As any entrepreneur with a project in the early stages knows, the first year is always the most difficult and the temptation to give up and accept failure stays with you all the time. As Richard himself confesses "If we would have known how difficult it was going to be we would never had done it. Again, If we would have known how successful we were going to be we wouldn't have doubted.”  To get an idea of how difficult it was, picture yourself in 2008, during the second ‘.com’ boom, surrounded by amazing and fancy technological companies, trying to attract people to your smoothie company. The talent hunt wasn't easy, and as Richard Reed remembers, they failed to attract the right staff. This mistake was quickly corrected and now if you take a look at the company’s latest job offers you will find clear job descriptions, followed by a detailed list of benefits and success stories from inside the company. Suddenly, your interest for crushing fruit has been rejuvenated.


Another early mistake was having a concrete idea, company philosophy and marketing plan, but not a clear physical product to show. "That made the first funding process very difficult and also finding suppliers, stores, partners.... We learnt that people are more likely to trust you if you have a beautiful and attractive physical product to show them, so we took samples to every meeting we had." Here is a lesson to be learnt for all the entrepreneurs out there who want to gain the confidence of their industries.  Ideas are easier to believe if there is a real product to support them.


A variety of products for different targets, charity projects, good advertising with the right media.... After taking the right steps, success eventually arrived and Innocent Drinks became the multi award winning company that it is today, with several well known products present in every supermarket. But even a more than well established company like this one, can go through difficult stages. "By 2008 we were very close to losing everything and we had to go through the fundraising process again. We started our fundraising process the day Lehmann & Brothers collapsed, possibly the worst moment in economic history to do it. Thankfully, big corporations got interested in our project very soon." The big corporation Richard was talking about were Pepsi and Coca Cola. In case you are wondering, yes, they fought hard for Innocent Drinks. In the end, Coca Cola won the fight because they understand better than anyone the value of the brand, and now, when they own almost the entire company, they give Richard and his team complete freedom to make their own decisions. When your boss is one of the most powerful brands on earth this is quite a remarkable situation.


JamJar Investments helps others succeed


Startup Grind Richard Reed London

Innocent Drinks is not the only project Richard is involved in, just last year, alongside his two other partners and some friends they launched Jam Jar, a funding platform for entrepreneurs with early stage products. Thanks to Jam Jar, successful projects have seen the light and several entrepreneurs have seen their projects supported with capital. From sustainable coffee to low fat chips, most of the projects share that “Innocent spirit” that adds an innate value to the brand. If you have a strong team working on a good idea that consumers are going to love, Jam Jar is for you.

After sharing all those stories and tips, Richard kindly stayed after the talk for more informal networking with those who wanted to exchange a few words with him.  Energetic, kind and charming. One can´t help identifying him with his product, because he seems as natural, genuine and approachable, as those Innocent Drinks.