Innocent is a B-Corp certified drinks company that aims to use healthy, natural ingredients in their products. The brand is built on the values of sustainability and healthy eating. Even though Coca-Cola took full ownership of Innocent in 2013, Innocent has managed to retain a positive image. Overall, Innocent has actively sought to improve the sustainability of their products, by reducing carbon emissions and sourcing their ingredients responsibly, however, there are still many improvements they could make. If consumers were to purchase this product, I recommend that they reuse the bottle to extend its life cycle and make sure it is recycled at the end of its use. Eliminating single-use plastic would be the most beneficial option. An alternative and far more sustainable option would be to make smoothies at home, with fruit and vegetables grown locally, therefore preventing single-use plastic, and reducing food miles.
The ingredients in Innocent's Super Smoothie (300ml) include 1 pressed apple, 13 pressed grapes, 3 crushed strawberries, 2 ½ crushed cherries, ½ a banana, 14 blackcurrants, pressed beetroot, flax seeds, guarana infusion, and a variety of multivitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E). Innocent are honest about the source of their ingredients, with most information being easily found on their website. For instance, Innocent are proud of sourcing their bananas from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. This certification promotes environmental and social sustainability, by decreasing the use of agro-chemicals, conserving water, composting waste, and guarantees that farmers are treated fairly.
They source their strawberries from Huelva, Southern Spain, and actively engage in sustainable farming methods through improved water management to reduce the quantity of water used in their production. For example, in 2015, Innocent saved 1.7 million cubic meters of water in Huelva, without causing negative consequences on quality or yield. However, some of the fruits in their smoothie are grown in tropical locations, such as bananas, and during the winter, it is likely that grapes and cherries would be imported from outside Europe. Food miles is therefore one of the main issues of concern in their product. Since Innocent are aware that not all fruit can be grown locally, they compensate by reducing their overall footprint through their packaging instead.
Through my research, I was disappointed that Innocent’s smoothie packaging is not as sustainable as I would like it to be. The smoothie is bottled in PET plastic, and the cap is made from HDPE, both of which are recyclable. In 2007, 100% of their bottle was made from recycled plastic, however, they reduced this figure to 35% in 2011. 15% of the bottle is made from plant material, and the remaining 50% is made from oil-based plastic. The reason for this change is that they want their smoothies to ‘look their best', and since recycled plastic did not perform as well as oil-based plastic, they reduced its quantity. It's surprising to find out that Innocent once had entirely recyclable packaging for their smoothies, but chose to reduce their sustainable packaging for the bottle’s presentation. Even though they have set a goal to develop a “zero virgin plastic bottle by 2022”, this drastic change is unlikely to happen as the company themselves have said that this goal is “unrealistic”.
Innocent’s supply chain is not as sustainable as it could be. The majority of their ingredients are imported from abroad. Where possible, ferry and rail are used, but in some cases, trucks are used which contribute to food miles and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Information regarding their overall manufacturing process is rather vague. I could not find information on where their factories are located and the source of the other ingredients in this smoothie. If Innocent were more transparent about their overall manufacturing process they would have had a higher rating. I also came across many news articles that state that Innocent plans to open a carbon-neutral factory in Rotterdam, Netherlands, this coming year (2021). The factory is said to be carbon-neutral, therefore making the production site sustainable. Since 25% of Innocent’s produce is imported to Rotterdam’s Port, locating in this area is ideal as it will reduce their food mileage.
Innocent published their very first sustainability report in 2019, where they share past progress and future goals. Their report claims that in 2019, 75% of the ingredients used in their smoothie are responsibly sourced. Their aim is to increase this figure to 100% by 2023. Whilst they are not doing enough at the moment, the fact that they have given themselves a short time period to achieve this goal suggests they are committed to source responsibly. In terms of social responsibilities, Innocent donated £1.5 million to local charities across Europe in 2019 and has funded over 80 projects to help the world’s hungry through the Innocent Foundation. For example, £13,000 on a project in Brazil to tackle deforestation. However, knowing that Innocent’s revenue in 2018 alone was over £350 million, this is less than 1% of their profits. The outcome of the project has also not been mentioned.
Whilst they have not set entirely meaningful and realistic goals, they have quantified their past achievements, in order to measure their progress. This is a step forward to achieve a successful sustainable future. In an interview with Lombard Odier, Innocent revealed how they plan to achieve many of the goals they have put forward in their Sustainability Report. For example, they are currently reducing emissions across their business chain through their new carbon-neutral office (“Fruit Towers HQ”, in London). They are also exploring low-carbon farming options, using lightweight materials in packaging, and encouraging their bottling partners to use renewable energy. It is clear that Innocent still has progress to be made, however, the honesty and transparency of their Sustainability Team have shown that they are aware of where changes need to be made.