Last week BRUU had the opportunity to visit Innocent drinks to witness first-hand how this remarkable company has built its famous culture. Pen and paper in hand, it was note-taking time...
Innocent drinks are based in London in the aptly named Fruit Towers which is home to their famous grass-covered ice cream van that visits various events around the country each year.
On arrival, I was offered a smoothie from the fridge (we'd have been offended otherwise) before we visited the main hall which is used by the Innocent team for eating, socialising and relaxing. It's a great space that looks more like a park than a canteen and I'm sure the games tables, free daily breakfast and Beer Friday are a hit with the team. I also loved the live Twitter broadcast providing a real-time overview of what its many customers are saying.
Every new employee is asked to provide a photograph which is framed and put on a dedicated wall. The only prerequisite is it must be a baby photo! I thought this personal touch was fantastic and in keeping with their open plan, everyone is approachable attitude.
Behind a large glass window titled "where the magic happens" were people dressed in white coats. It all looked very scientific and is where new products are created. In fact, to ensure consistency, batches of products are tested regularly at the beginning, middle and end of shelf life. It's this attention to detail that helps to keep Innocent ahead of the European drinks game.
We then continued our tour upstairs where I witness people working diligently towards a shared goal, painted on the walls as a daily reminder. They seemed to be excelling in an environment that fosters creativity and collaboration.
My guide David is mainly responsible for sustaining this culture. He probably has one of the coolest jobs around and gets to make all his childhood fantasies come true with what seemed like an unlimited fun budget. But don't be fooled into thinking Innocent are anything less than commercial geniuses.
A Lego wall, an upside-down train track in a meeting room, the bright red phone box, I could go on, where good fun is part of what makes working at Innocent so exciting. And let's face it, people run business - so happy people mean happy customers in the end anyway. It's a long game that seems to be paying off.
As we ascended the staircase a timeline detailed each step Innocent has made along the way and serves as a reminder of its humble beginnings. I particularly loved the "been and gone" wall, which recognises the few employees that have moved on with personalised product labels outlining that person's character as a smoothie recipe that is presented on a golden bottle.
There is even a wall to say goodbye to discontinued products that have ascended to smoothie heaven!
In another area is the famous Big Knit, which met lots of scepticism at Innocent, but their policy to proceed if you're 70% sure of an idea - it is given the green light. Good job as well because it's been their most successful campaign to date and is in its 9th year. If you're unfamiliar with the Big Knit people are encouraged to make woolly hats which are put on smoothie bottles - 25p is then donated to Age UK aimed at reducing the number of elderly people that die from cold each winter. And yes it is a logistical nightmare but another sign that Innocent are true to their values.
Another sign of integrity is Innocents sustainability endeavours. One feature I particularly liked was the green light on each floor which illuminates when the building decides it is more efficient for windows to be opened and the air conditioning deactivated. The "last leaver pulls the lever" ensures no electrical devices are left running needlessly and with only one printer in the whole building you really get the feeling that they aren't greenwashing.
And that's about where our tour ended. It was fantastic to meet the team and to experience a culture that I've been admiring for a long time. And despite Coca-Cola's involvement they seem to have retained the magic that has clearly been working. I left with a head full of inspiration to implement on our loose tea mission back at BRUU, and a bag full of goodies!