Innocent's fruit smoothy ad is squashed

Innocent, the fruit smoothies firm that has grown from three guys in a bedroom to a workforce 100-strong, was yesterday accused of being less than its name in one of its adverts.

In October last year, the UK-headquartered company ran a full-colour advertisement in magazines and newspapers to promote a “natural detox superfoods smoothie.”

One consumer challenged this claim, and problematically for the firm, especially as it beefs up its marketing to children, the ad regulator has upheld it; finding it false and misleading.

In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority said Innocent, which has a lion’s share of the UK smoothies market, has failed to prove their product removed toxins from the body.

The ASA also took issue with the strapline to Innocent’s acai, a pomegranate and blueberry drink, that stated one bottle provides “even more antioxidants than the average five a day.”

Innocent Ltd based their claim on an American study that linked increased consumption of fruit and vegetables with increased plasma antioxidant capacity in humans.

But the watchdog said the study stressed that smoothies “could count towards only one” of the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, “no matter how much was consumed.”

As a result, and on this charge, Innocent’s ad breached the advertising code in terms of substantiation, truthfulness and medical and scientific claims.

More positively for the multi-million pound business, the regulator suggested Innocent responded responsibly to the ruling.

“We welcomed Innocent Ltd's assurance that they had no plans to use the ad again or to use similar claims in the future,” the ASA said.

“We told Innocent Ltd to delete the claims and to ensure they could provide suitable evidence to back up any future claims.”

But last night the offending advert was still visible on Innocent’s website and was being used by the firm to put across ‘their side of the story.’

“We have no interest in confusing or misleading people. When we find that one of our recipes is packed with extremely healthy ingredients, we like to pass the information on,” the company said.

“Ultimately, we only ever want people to understand that eating fruit and veg is the best thing you can do. And we’d never want someone to think just drinking one of our bottles was all they should do that day.

“We figure people are smart enough to know that we’re not a quick fix, and that you’ve got to eat your greens too. So if you read anything about us trying to trick you, now you've got both sides of the story.”

Despite the post-ruling wrangling, consumers are likely to still primarily see Innocent as the only UK provider of 100% pure fruit smoothies that uses fresh juices not concentrated ones.

Other consumers, regardless of whether they buy Innocent products or spy the offending ad, are likely to see Richard Reed's drinks venture dating back to 1998 as a business success story.

In fact, The Sunday Times recently named the company as the fastest-growing foods and drinks business in the country, while a survey by Checkout reportedly found it to be among the fastest-growing brands in the UK.

Evidencing the runaway growth of the company,which had a unique pre-start-up strategy , Checkout pointed out that the firm's turnover leapt from £1.9m in 2001 to £16.7m by 2004.

This week, Innocent was mentioned as one of the companies to have been picked out by Growing Business, a magazine with a list dedicated to unearthing business talents in their nascent stages.

And although there’s no category for drinks tycoons, a competition being run by Make Your Mark is searching for creative business owners who think they could be the next big thing in the arts, music; design or fashion industries.

To enter the competition as a creative business, a high-growth firm, or any other of the categories please read the online entry details , and quickly; the deadline to enter is October 22, 2007.


3rd October 2007

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