Innocent Drinks Business on the Move Innocent

‘We want our new agency to grow with us’: Innocent plans for a fruitful relationship


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

May 18, 2023 | 6 min read

The smoothie brand needs to innovate to maintain its position in the UK and Europe. Marketing boss Irem Mainwaring tells us how she hopes new agency partner Neverland will help.

An Innocent banana smoothie pictured against a banana colored background

Innocent recently hired Neverland as its next creative agency / Innocent

After 24 years of expansion, Innocent is a household name. Its marketing team isn’t so naïve as to think that’s an easy position to maintain, however. To freshen things up, then, indie creative shop Neverland was last week announced as its new agency-of-record for pan-European communications.

The market for juices, smoothies and anything considered remotely ’healthy’ is far larger than it was when Innocent was first established. In 1998, the business’s founders kicked off with just £500 of fruit; upon selling to Coca-Cola 11 years later, it had a turnover of £100m.

Though it is now the biggest-selling juice and smoothie brand in the UK, sales dipped 2% last year, according to The Grocer. The problem facing Irem Mainwaring, head of brand and portfolio, is how it can hold market share against its rivals.

“We are the original challenger brand,” she claims. “But, as time has passed, a lot of brands started to copy us. We need to reframe ourselves and to become more relevant and distinctive for future, younger generations.”

She says supermarket competitors are a particular concern. “We operate in a category that is at risk of becoming commoditized. Private labels [own-label brands manufactured by third parties] are one of our key areas of competition in the space. We want to make sure we have a broader point of difference than these sorts of businesses.”

It’s a very real risk. The dairy-free segment, one area of potential expansion for the company when it launched a three-product range back in 2018, ended up souring on Innocent. In March, Coca-Cola pulled the range following poor sales.

Looking to the ‘fruiture’

Going forward, the company has reset its strategy for the next 10 years around a horticultural pun. “We need a new partner to carry our brand to the ’fruiture’ with a fresh, challenger perspective,” says Mainwaring.

To reach that destination, the brand pulped its 14-year relationship with Mother and hired London-based indie Neverland. The creative shop took the account in a three-way competitive pitch managed by Tina Fegent Consulting.

In particular, Mainwaring wants to focus on embracing younger consumers and a core demographic that she calls “everyday changemakers,” who “like to choose brands with purpose in their hearts”. The company plans to reach them by updating its media mix, with digital spend to be prioritized to provide “human connections at scale”.

”The magic of our brand is creating connections with consumers that feel very personal and we believe that digital is the space we’re excelling in that. So, it’s about how we can make that more effective while continuing to invest in our other above-the-line channels.”

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Neverland will be working closely with Innocent’s in-house team, which has a staff of 21. “We want Neverland to bring us the lens for fresh perspectives, while our creative team grounds the idea to Innocent’s true essence: the authenticity of the brand, the way that we talk.

“Bringing in that external partnership will make the blend even more impactful. That synergy will put the creativity at the heart of everything we do, so we can actually create those relevant, distinctive messages for drinkers and put emotion at the heart of our communications – and resolve the category tensions we have.”

Mainwaring says she aims for Innocent’s working relationship with Neverland to last a similar duration as its time with Mother. “We believe in long-term partnerships. In essence, we want to make sure that the agency is almost like a natural extension of our brand and portfolio and our family… we want to make sure that it can actually grow with us and that it can also challenge us.”

The agency’s first work for the brand is due out next year.

Innocent Drinks Business on the Move Innocent

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