I couldn’t resist dropping by to Innocent Drinks’ fondly named “Fruit Towers” this week to sample the moving in celebrations and of course pick their brains about the move. The following extracts from I Wish I Worked There! – A Look Inside the Most Creative Spaces in Business touch on some of those features that have been preserved and in some cases amplified in their shiny new offices on some canal docks in West London. Stay tuned for a more in-depth interview in July.
Stepping into the headquarters of Innocent Drinks is like stepping into a Summer’s day: an open communal space, furnished with picnic benches, booths, table football and an archetypal English red telephone box, is large enough for the whole company to gather at once.
A mezzanine breaks the view, creating an upper work area that, while separated, remains very much a part of the main space. Alcoves and small rooms peel away to the sides, while suspended basket chairs offer quiet moments and noontime naps. At the heart of the main space is a large, open family kitchen where food and drink are on tap and most employees pass daily. Positioned adjacent to the communal ‘chill-out’ space, it is hive of activity throughout the day, Jenny Whitmore, Head of Environment explains: ‘The kitchen is always the hub of the house, isn’t it? That translates to Fruit Towers too; it is where you go for those “I’ll meet you in the kitchen” chats’.
The buzz of 200 people in this space gives it the feel of an English Village Fair, while countless potted trees and picnic benches complete the notion that you’re outside on a sunny Summer’s day. The fake turf teases you to kick your shoes off, and looking around you can see many who have succumbed to the notion. Tucked away to the rear there is a lovely tree-lined, outdoor ‘beer garden’ area comprising 300 ft of shaded gravel with (of course) more picnic tables: perfect for Summer picnics, impromptu meetings or simply catching a breath of fresh air.
When the business grew from one unit to six, the management team worked hard to preserve the personality and attitude that was intrinsic in the early working environment. In the beginning, there were just four or five people hanging out in one big space; sourcing the right fruit, designing the packaging, persuading supermarkets and stores to distribute their product and communicating with their drinkers about why their drinks were so good. As the business continued to evolve, the founders realised that working in close proximity to each other had a positive side-effect on their culture; allowing them to share and solve problems together, while contributing equally to the growing business. There was no master plan for the space – rather an intuitive sense of what worked for the brand, the culture and the business. This understanding guided the in-house team, as Jenny recalls: ‘We knew we had a great recipe for what was working and just recreated it’. In this most organic way, the fundamental principles of Innocent’s space were born: keep things open, mix people up and keep them close to each other, but give them space to escape – and you’ll keep the natural, creative buzz alive.
A distinct aspect of Innocent’s brand is its tongue-in-cheek sense of humour and no-nonsense approach to business that has not only helped them create a unique product in the marketplace, but also supports a creative culture where employees are free to have fun and share ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. ‘We add little touches our products and our packaging to show drinkers there’s a human being behind them,’ says Dan Germain, Head of Creative. Refreshing, natural and straight-talking, with nice, cheeky little surprises. As a consumer, that’s what you experience with the Innocent product and brand. This is reflected so well in the physical environment, through some of the fun choices for the materials and details, the use of fun language in communications, and continuous contribution from the people who work at Fruit Towers to keep things ‘Innocent’.