Richard Reed

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[London] "Sexy, fun, non-corporate, purity, health, conscience." Richard Reed searches for words to sum up Innocent, the fruit smoothie company he founded six years ago with two friends, Adam Balon and John Wright.

Innocent, which embraces a Ben & Jerry's-like philosophy, already has a 62% share of the U.K. market, according to A.C. Nielsen Co. Distribution is under way in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and a U.S. entry is part of the long-term plan. "We see a big opportunity in the U.S.," Mr. Reed says, "and we hope to get there one day."

They started the company with a vision: "We wanted to democratize health, to give the majority of the population access to our fresh and healthy drinks, and to create a business where the commercial overlaps with the social."

Mr. Reed, 32, quit his job as an account director at DDB, London, to make smoothies after conducting a poll at a music festival. People sampled his drinks and placed empties in "yes" or "no" buckets to vote on whether the three friends should give up their day jobs to make smoothies full time.

A resounding "yes" vote sealed the deal, and DDB even gave Mr. Reed office space and time off while he tested the Innocent concept.

Jorian Murray, managing director of DDB, London, says: "It was clear for everyone to see how talented Richard was. He is strategic, creative, diplomatic and popular."

Mr. Reed used innovative marketing tactics to shape Innocent into a lovable, quirky brand. Its first TV spot this year was made by friends in a local park one Saturday morning. "We wanted the ad to speak in the tone of someone who'd just popped in for a cup of tea and a biscuit," he says.

Most marketing is even less conventional. Members of the Innocent "family" get regular e-mails and Christmas presents-last year, a pair of Innocent knickers. The product is delivered in musical vans covered in grass and daisies, or disguised as cows, with udders and horns, that say "moo." Each winter, smoothies are sold wearing hats knit by a team of senior citizens. Proceeds go to Help the Aged. In summer, Innocent stages Fruitstock, a free music and arts festival in a London park that "brings the spirit of the brand alive," Mr. Reed says.

The Innocent Foundation uses 10% of profits to fund sustainable development projects; another 15% goes to staff.

Although Mr. Reed doesn't see growth as a threat to Innocent's values-"We are getting more Innocent as we grow"-there are potential challengers, including Pepsi- Cola Co., which recently acquired Pete & Johnny's, another offbeat smoothie maker under the PJ Smoothie name, and the launch of Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid U.K.

"Other multinationals have launched smoothie brands here and failed," Mr. Reed says. "It's a bitch of a business system, and it doesn't match their margin expectations. I want to prove that big doesn't always eat small. We can win out through being fleet of foot, through innovation, and by focusing on quality and on retailers and consumers."

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