September 10, 2008

Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks has extended its brand to include vegetable-based products for the first time, with the launch of four varieties of prepared meals that will initially be available in Waitrose stores. The move continues the company's health focus, but it is debatable whether Veg Pots will have the same appeal as its popular fruit smoothies.

Innocent Drinks has moved into the production and sale of vegetable-based meals with the introduction of its new Veg Pots in four varieties: Moroccan Squash Tagine, Tuscan Bean Stew, Pea & Broccoli Rice and Thai Coconut Curry. The range will sell exclusively in Waitrose until October at which point it will be rolled out to other retailers across the UK.

The new range is designed to appeal to the office lunchtime market as a healthy alternative to sandwiches. Each 300 calorie pot is said to provide three portions of the recommended five fruit and vegetables a day, while being high in fiber, and low in fat and salt. The meals are also quick to cook, taking a few minutes to heat in the microwave.

While the product undoubtedly has a healthy makeup, the company could struggle to convince people to pay the relatively high price. At GBP3.49, the Veg Pot is more expensive than the average supermarket bought sandwiches. At a time when many consumers are tightening their purse strings, this could impinge on sales.

The new range could also fail the popularity test as it is moving the brand into unknown territory. Innocent has been criticized in the past for moving out of its comfort zone, such as when it introduced Juicy Water, now renamed This Water. The fruit flavored water was said to be bad for the teeth as it had generous amounts of sugar added to it. The brand has since been spun off from the main company.

Another unpopular move was the formation of a trial partnership with McDonalds in 2007. Innocent was criticized for appearing to endorse unhealthy junk food, although the company claimed it was merely encouraging a wider range of people to eat healthily. It has since extended the trial to more UK locations.

For the Veg Pots to succeed, the company will have to convince people that they are as tasty as its fruit smoothies, and worth the hefty price tag. It remains to be seen whether this is an extension too far, or whether consumers will make the Veg Pot part of their everyday lunchtime buying habits.