Innocent No Longer So Innocent

For Immediate Release
April 7, 2009

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584

San Francisco (April 7, 2009): Innocent - a UK based beverage company known for its ethical practices and providing natural and healthy beverages - has sold out.

The Coca-Cola company is buying a 30 million stake in Innocent, representing between a ten to twenty percent share of Innocent.

According to Innocent founders, the deal with Coca-Cola allows the company to expand its markets further into Europe.

For the Coca-Cola company, no doubt, the deal goes a long way in its efforts to manufacture an image of itself that it clearly is not - a green, ethical company that sells natural and healthy products.

Innocent's sell out comes close to a year after Coca-Cola purchased a forty percent stake in the US based organic beverage company, Honest Tea, in February 2008 in a deal estimated at about $43 million.

"From a public relations perspective, it is a brilliant move on the part of the Coca-Cola company to acquire interests in Innocent and Honest Tea, two companies known for their ethical and socially responsible practices, and brand names that marketing professionals could only dream of," said Amit Srivastava of the International Campaign Against Coca-Cola.

"But innocent, honesty, healthy, ethical and green are hardly the words that come to mind when describing Coca-Cola's practices around the world," he continued. "In fact, it is quite the opposite, and exactly the reason why Coca-Cola is seeking relationships with such innocent and honest sounding brand names. It is a good marketing move because it is deceptive."

The Coca-Cola company has been under fire for its practices in India, where communities living around its bottling plants are facing severe water shortages as a result of the company's operations. Two bottling plants have been shut down and a study financed by Coca-Cola itself has recommended that the company shut down another plant because it denies people their fundamental human right - access to water.

Coca-Cola has largely ignored the recommendations of the study it paid for in India. Instead, the company has embarked upon an ambitious public relations exercise in India, with absurd taglines like "Little Drops of Joy."

In industrialized countries, Coca-Cola has been under fire for contributing significantly to the obesity epidemic, particularly among children, as it peddles its unhealthy, sugar laden products.

California, for example, has banned the sale of unhealthy soft drinks in its schools and so has the UK, and numerous other countries and states are following suit.

Indeed, the Coca-Cola company is experiencing loss of sales and revenues in the industrialized countries, particularly the US, as consumers wisen up to the negative health impacts of Coca-Cola products.

In a report released last week, Coca-Cola soft drinks volume in the US fell 3.1% in 2008, and soft drinks volume fell 6% in the last four years - a trend confirming rejection of unhealthy beverages.

Campaigns from India challenging Coca-Cola's mismanagement of water and the growing health concerns with the company's products have tarnished Coca-Cola's image considerably.

In response to the growing image problem, the Coca-Cola company has ramped up its public relations efforts to position itself as a green and ethical company that is on the forefront of health and nutrition.

Coca-Cola's stake in Innocent and Honest Tea is part of this strategy.

To respond to the growing rejection of its products for health reasons in industrialized countries, the company has embarked upon an aggressive strategy to find new consumers in emerging economies of India and China. It makes no difference to Coca-Cola that if high sugar products are detrimental to the health of consumers in the west, they also must be detrimental to people in developing countries.

Is Coca-Cola innocent and honest? Hardly.

They continue to peddle unhealthy products knowing very well that they are unhealthy. And they continue to deprive communities in India of water, choosing to use their public relations might instead of actually fixing the problems they have created.

Sadly, with Coca-Cola's acquisition, Innocent is no longer innocent.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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