Richard Reed on scaling Innocent Drinks [Video]
Richard Reed explains how the founders of Innocent Drinks overcame the huge challenge of scaling the business that started in their kitchens
Innocent Drinks started out with three young entrepreneurs; Richard Reed, Jon Wright and Adam Balon, creating smoothies out of blenders in their kitchen and has grown to become a multi-million pound brand. Yet, making this transition from kitchen to commercial production was not an easy one as Innocent co-founder Reed explains, arguing that one of the biggest challenges Innocent faced was scale:
“How the hell do you make them [smoothies] at scale? Making them once is easy, making them day in, day out without compromising the integrity, that was pretty much as hard as finding an investor and took almost the same amount of time.”
Discussing the Innocent founders’ method of sourcing suppliers and manufacturers, Reed says that “it was just going to see person after person, company after company [and then] them saying in a really nice way […] that it’s not going to work, it’s not how the juice industry functions.”
Reed points out that many suppliers were at a loss as to how their business model would work because to make juice commercially “you’ve got to use concentrates to make it more profitable, you’ve got to put preservatives in to add shelf life, you’ve got to put flavourings in to compensate for the fact that you’re using cheap fruit in the first place”. But, as Reed retorts, that “was not our business idea” and “we had to say it’s you that doesn’t understand because if you take out the idea of making them naturally then we don’t have a business concept.”
Out of what Reed deems “luck and sheer bloody mindedness”, the Innocent founders were then introduced to Mike Lord, a Welsh man brought up in Jamaica who had established a business importing oranges from Jamaica and turning them into freshly squeezed orange juice. Reed asserts “that there wasn’t that much of a leap to go from making that to making smoothies so we persuaded him to work with us”.
However, Lord also held the belief that the “idea wouldn’t work” but Reed states that he “decided to give us a shot” as the “glint in our eyes reminded him of himself when he was our age”. The Innocent trio then invested in smoothie manufacturing kits to put in Lord’s manufacturing site and “from that managed to find a new way to make smoothies commercially without having to compromise”.
Crediting Innocent’s ability to finally source manufacturers “after 15 months of blood, sweat and tears” to scale the business, Reed says that it was all down to “sheer determination and a lot of luck”.