As Europe’s best-selling smoothie maker with a 2020 turnover of €467M, innocent have unquestionably built an inimitable brand since their humble beginnings at a music festival in 1999.

Engaging and involving customers in products has always been an intrinsic part of their philosophy and here we talk to Emma McClintock, Group Insights Manager at innocent drinks, and Melissa Birkett, Associate Director at Verve about how ‘The Greenhouse’ community panel provides always-on consumer-closeness with a group of innocent-VIPs.

What’s going on at innocent right now; what are the big things happening in 2021?

Emma portrait
Emma:

What we’re seeing as we emerge from the pandemic is a revival for the natural health benefits of juices and smoothies as consumers look for a ‘quick fix’ of high vitamin content and immunity benefits. We’re continuing to focus on providing healthy, tasty and sustainable products to innocent drinkers, which include the relaunch of our core range of smoothies and the introduction of new lighter recipes with 30% less sugar.

Tell us about ‘The Greenhouse’, and the types of things you’re doing with it?

Emma portrait
Emma:

It’s really important for us to have a deep understanding of consumer attitudes and behaviours to make sure we keep consumers at the heart of everything we do. The Greenhouse community is incredibly valuable, helping us stay connected to our drinkers and keep in touch with consumer needs and concerns.

Melissa portrait
Melissa:

Greenhouse connects innocent to drinkers across Europe. We have 1000 members across the UK, France and Germany who help with a wide range of projects: from testing new concepts to developing branding and comms and making sure they’re all aligned with consumer needs.

Emma portrait
Emma:

One really interesting Greenhouse project was on our new TV advert ‘Little Drinks, Big Dreams’ which launched in May and introduces a new brand platform for us. It aims to engage a new generation of drinkers, whilst still supporting our health and sustainability credentials.

Melissa portrait
Melissa:

This has been a great project for Greenhouse; members were shown a sneak peek of some early iterations of the advert and helped shape the content to ensure it was relatable and true to the innocent brand. From an engagement perspective, the community love to see how influential their feedback is and seeing the final ad aired on TV and online definitely helps with this!

How does The Greenhouse play a role in innocent’s overall strategy?

Emma portrait
Emma:

The Greenhouse is well established in the business as a core insight tool and is widely well regarded for helping us in our mission to make sure consumers are at heart of our decision-making. It definitely helps us ensure we align our strategy with the needs of ‘real’ consumers –making sure our innovations and comms are relevant and up to date. That’s obviously hugely important to us.

It also allows us to be more agile and have more touchpoints with the consumer throughout the innovation cycle. Being able to check-in and test something with the community, then make tweaks and changes as a result, means we’re better placed to keep innovations on track. And in the same way, it allows us to be reactive and respond quickly - helping retain our ‘entrepreneurial mindset’, which is so important to us at innocent.

Melissa portrait
Melissa:

Communities are ideal for delivering innovation, because customers can be much more closely involved throughout the process of creating, evaluating, refining and testing new ideas and propositions. We have the freedom to call on members when we need them, and the flexibility to quickly choose the right tool and approach to fit the need at that time. In the end this means there’s far more collaboration and consensus in decision making.

The Greenhouse was used recently to run a project to identify opportunities to feed into the development of innocent’s juice strategy. Can you tell us about that?

Melissa portrait
Melissa:

We used The Greenhouse to explore perceptions of the juice category via a range of different tasks and activities. For example, members went on ‘Store Safari’ missions to their local supermarkets to explore the fixture for themselves. They also purchased a selection of products to take home, pop in their fridge, read the packaging and, of course, taste test and drink!

Emma portrait
Emma:

innocent’s juice has always been the healthy and tasty choice with an ethical ethos. With our focus being to continue to grow in juice and remain relevant, we wanted to get as close as we possibly could to the moment of purchase and understand what impacts consumer choice.

You also integrated semiotic analysis into the process – how did it add value?

Melissa portrait
Melissa:

It allowed us to thoroughly understand how consumers felt about the juice category - and innocent’s offering. We used native speakers (who live and work full time for Verve from their own country) to collect a variety of ‘cultural data sources’ – things such as video and print ads, brand website copy and imagery, pack visuals, social media data and so on. Using a combination of this and member feedback, we undertook semiotic analysis of the category to uncover what cultural signifiers were creating emotional connections.

Emma portrait
Emma:

It was a very valuable process, particularly because the insights allowed us to be future-facing – taking us beyond that which is rooted in now, to get visibility on what’s progressive and likely to start to emerge.

You’ve had a great reaction to the project – in what ways have you already seen people using the insight?

Emma portrait
Emma:

It’s been really well received internally – and we’re now rolling out the approach in other key markets. The insight will input into several workstreams including communications and NPD and will be used by both our global and local teams to develop and improve our offering in the juice category.

Finally, what’s the vision for taking Greenhouse further this year?

Emma portrait
Emma:

We love the Greenhouse community! It will continue to be a key tool, helping us keep in touch with consumers, enabling us to respond quickly to issues and forming an integral part of our insight plan and innovation projects going forwards.

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