>To listen to the media backlash, you’d think Innocent, the smoothie maker, had just signed a pact with the devil – media-friendly founder Richard Reed being cast in the improbable role of Dr Faustus.
Successful businesses don’t continue to be successful by standing still. For quite some time now, Innocent has been underpowered, both in its product range and geographical spread. As Reed tried to explain to a hectoring Eddie Mair on Radio 4, if Innocent doesn’t grasp the smoothie opportunity in other, virgin, European markets then the big battalions will rip off their ideas and do it themselves.
But where do they get the money to do it? Would anyone have objected to a bank about a year ago? Would that have been an unacceptable compromise of Innocent’s wholesome ethical brand stance? I don’t think so, because Innocent managed to secure a £32m credit line from HBOS (yes, HBOS) without anyone raising so much as a squeak of dissent.
But substitute Coca-Cola for HBOS and what do you get? Universal vilification: accusations which range from naivety to downright cynical hypocrisy.
Lighten up. Innocent is a business not a charity. Where else, in this climate, is the money going to come from – a private equity house? Don’t make me laugh. And, by the way, what’s so bad about Coke holding a fairly small minority stake, maybe 15%?
Ah, you say, this is where you’re being naive. It’s all part of a carefully premeditated plan… you wait, in 5 years’ time the Innocent founders will be on their way, rich beyond the dreams of avarice, leaving behind the husk of an ethical food company which has been sucked dry by the parasites at Coca-Cola.
Come on. Just as McDonald’s did to Pret A Manger, which bought back their 33% stake last year?