I spent last Saturday (sunny!) in a warehouse on an industrial estate off the Goldhawk Road. It was the innocent AGM and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
This was no ordinary AGM, despite featuring one quite interesting graph. But innocent is no ordinary company and their third 'grown up meeting' is quite hard to describe. Imagine a cross between a jamboree, a comedy gig, a hall test and a CBeebies awayday.
There were large bean bags to sit on and smoothies and veg pots to try (including new recipes, details of which we couldn’t possibly divulge for less than six figures). There were treasure hunts, talks, smoothie demos and games to play … all sorts.
Dan was the compere of the event and claimed to be its originator. He was a great host and was very funny (he writes innocent’s jokes). He also looked a bit like a pirate on a day off.
Innocent's three founders have been called hippies but they're too sussed for that. Plus, did you ever meet a hippie who played tennis, or worked for Bain and Co?
Mind you, innocent is quite beardy, especially the blokes - not only Dan, but Joe the good-looking one (tests prove it). Even Richard seemed a bit wispy on the day.
They say never trust a man with a beard but innocent admit to their mistakes. Like making a veg pot which was not suitable for vegetarians. Or sending supermarket buyers fermented fruit juice which exploded. Or getting into trouble for joking that one of their smoothies contained ‘two plump nuns’ when it didn’t.
Or forgetting in 2008/9 to ‘keep the main thing the main thing’, as sales dipped dramatically. Not helped by a global financial meltdown.
This was their favourite reminder of the need to stick to the main thing, from their rather good book.They have come back stronger since then, 'more innocent', more confident, more committed. Turnover is somewhere around £600m, they have 78% of the UK smoothie market, they are expanding into Europe. They spend £10m on advertising. Some of it featuring a rabbit talking about 5 a day.
Because despite all the irreverence, innocent are quite serious about their purpose, which is to ‘make food good’. Their 30-year vision is ‘to become the Earth’s favourite little drinks and food company’. They are taking on serious issues like nutrition, pesticide use and sustainability. And VAT.
But the real surprise came late in the day during the Q&A. It wasn't the question about Coca Cola's increased shareholding, or the earlier trial with McDonald's. It was the fact that they were three blokes who didn't much like football. There was an audible gasp at the news. Jon claimed he supported Liverpool, but nobody bought that one.
It was a very blokey finale and another intriguing contradiction. They turn a summer hobby into a multi-million pound business. They are driven by clear moral values but are highly entrepreneurial, fiercely independent and non-corporate, but work with McDonald's and Coca Cola.
Now their business is flying and the talk is about further expansion, new avenues, new products, new offices, onwards and upwards. They are cultural and business game changers and surely represent so many people’s ideal company. I don’t doubt that everyone at the AGM and probably hundreds of thousands of other people have totally bought into them.
As the girl says, let's just hope they don't f*ck up the landing.