When a group of three friends from university started selling smoothies at a music festival in 1999, they put up a sign asking people if they thought they should give up their jobs to do
it full-time. They placed a bin saying ‘Yes’ and a bin saying ‘No’ in front of the stall, and got people to vote with their empties. At the end of the weekend, the ‘Yes’ bin was full, so
they resigned from their jobs the next day – and innocent was born. In 2009, innocent sold a stake of the business to The Coca-Cola Company for £30 million, with the three founders continuing to retain operational control. In February 2013, Coca-Cola increased its stake to more than 90%.
Retaining the quirky start-up ethos instilled by the founders when you are acquired by a big company could be seen as an HR headache for some. But as group people director Jane
Marsh explains, maintaining the ‘fresh’ culture that has become synonymous with the brand, while managing growth, is top of her agenda.