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Thoughts from category: sourcing fruit

saying hola to our strawberries

We use a lot of different fruits in our drinks. Pretty much all of them, actually (if you don’t count the weird ones you sometimes get with posh desserts). To make sure that we’re only ever putting the best tasting ingredients into our drinks, we go out and visit our farmers during the season of each fruit to make sure everything meets our standards and that the farm is ship shape from a technical, safety, quality and sustainability point of view. April means strawberry season in Spain so our Elodie and Lotte went over a couple of weeks back to pay a visit to our sunny Spanish farms.

 

While on their travels, they met with Pepe, one of our farmers. He has been working at the farm for more than thirty years and is really passionate about his work. Elodie and Lotte had the chance to try a few of his strawberries and can confirm that they were delicious (and would make a lovely pair of earrings). 

 

While the strawberries are in season, one plant will flower an average of eight times and it takes roughly twenty one days between the flower blossoming and picking an actual strawberry that we can use in our drinks. We don’t mind waiting around a bit for the perfect berry and we know they’re ready when they’ve grown large, orangey-red and sweet with a jammy flavour.

 

While we’re very picky about the taste of our berries, we aren’t picky about what they look like. We're happy to include all the weirdly shaped strawberries that the fresh market doesn’t want, which means there’s pretty much no waste.

Berry-illiant.

Kiwis. What came first – the bird or the fruit?

We travel far and wide to source the finest fruit for our drinks, which can take us to sunny places, rainy places, and, occasionally, downright explosive places. We stay as close to the fruit as we can to make sure it’s as tasty and responsibly sourced as possible, and our kiwis, odd-looking and slightly hairy as they may be, are no exception.

 

We make a purée from our kiwis to use in drinks like these. Because we don’t want to waste any kiwi, we actually use the whole fruit, from the seeds to the fuzzy coating. Nobody wants a fuzzy purée, so, to avoid this, we carefully wash the fruit and then sieve it several times which ensures that the purée tastes as delicious and hairless as a purée made from bald kiwis would be.

It’s important not to be ‘that guy’ who only bangs on about fruit, so we ask other important questions to our growers in New Zealand. Like whether the bird was named after the fruit or the fruit after the bird. We’re chuffed to confirm that (drumroll) it was in fact the fruit that was named after the bird. Ages ago, somewhere in New Zealand, someone decided to name the local birds ‘kiwis’. Then, the word ‘kiwi’ was applied as a nickname to things from New Zealand, the world largest producer of kiwi. One day, the Chinese gooseberry was renamed as ‘kiwi fruit’ for marketing purposes in New Zealand. The rest is history.

So that’s one of the big questions answered. Use it (in pub quizzes) wisely.

When life gives you lemons

Lemon juice. Useful for cooking (or baking a fine lemon drizzle cake) but you probably wouldn’t want to wash your lunch down with a bottle of the stuff. Which is why you won’t see an ‘innocent 100% lemon juice’ included in your supermarket meal deal. We know what the people (don’t) want.

While it’s not the best on it’s own, we do use lemon juice in some of our drinks (like these ones here). Lemon juice is excellent for it’s natural sharpness and helps give our recipes that zesty kick. But not too zesty or kicky. Just the right zesty kickiness.

photo: our lemons growing in the sunshine

What we don’t use is the skin. Lemon skin isn’t really suitable for smoothies. But luckily we know some people who will happily take the skins off our hands. You see, when you scratch an un-waxed lemon it realises essential oils and essences. These can be used as flavourings in food or as scents in perfume (so next time you’re down the shops buying a bottle of limone e’au de toilette, you know where it’s come from).

The skins can also be dried and used in teabags. Think lemon & ginger. And, if you like a side of jam with your tea and scones, then you’ll be pleased to hear that lemon peel is a key ingredient in pectin, the ingredient that sets the jam and makes it spreadable.

The rest is just leftovers. And who would want a pile of citrus-scented leftovers? Cows, that’s who. Those citrusy leftovers can be made into animal pellets and fed to cattle.

So, quite a useful little fruit really. We love it here at innocent and dedicate a lot of time to making sure we get the sweetest, least bitter juice for our drinks. Our fruit team have recently been in Europe making sure that we’re only sourcing the best tasting lemons (and occasionally making this face).

So, when life gives you lemons make lemonade. And innocent drinks. And perfume. And teabags. And jam. And cow pellets. As the old saying goes.

Mango go go

Our Catherine and Marta recently travelled to India to visit the people who supply our mangoes. As well as tasting the new season mangoes, this trip gave them the opportunity to see how our suppliers are getting on with our five point sustainability plan. The farmers in the region were struggling with lower mango yields so we started a project in partnership with the University of Konkan to address some of the challenges they were facing. We wanted to find sustainable ways to make the mango trees as strong and resilient as possible, so that they could still produce high mango yields despite the changing climate.

While they were out there, Catherine kept a travel log of some of things she and Marta got up to, and what they learned about our mangoes along the way:


Catherine's Log

As I’m quite new to the team, this was my first time going over to India and I was very excited to see the mango farms for myself and find out how everything worked. After an overnight flight, we landed in a very sticky but stunning Mumbai and started the long car journey to our first supplier (easily the bumpiest car ride I've ever been on). It was fascinating to drive into the country, away from the big cities, and see the real India. It was hot, hectic and just as colourful as I’d hoped it would be and the views from the window definitely made up for the bumps in the road.

When we arrived at our first supplier, we started learning about all the work they do with the farmers to improve yields and the new planting techniques they have been trying out, which they needed to implement in order to adapt to the changing climate affecting their fruit. The farms have now started experimenting with different planting, pruning and irrigation techniques. By keeping the trees smaller, the mangoes are easier to pluck and, therefore, the trees yield much more fruit.

 

The scenery was stunning as we drove to our next supplier – filled with lush tropical trees and greenery. When we arrived, we had a go at picking some mangoes ourselves as all of the mangoes on the farms are hand-plucked using a basket on the end of a stick. The equipment looks very simple, but is excellent at getting the job done. Here’s one of our pickers in action:

 

Once they've been picked, the mangoes are washed, placed into bowls, sorted, sent to be ripened and then turned into puree.

One of the most exciting moments of the trip was when we met the king of mangoes himself – the lovely Badrul, who stars in our British TV ads. He doesn’t speak English but we used a translator to tell him that we were really happy to meet him and that he was famous in the UK.

 

We reckon he should've been wearing this shirt when we made the ad (maybe one to consider for next time).

After visiting the suppliers, we’re chuffed to see that our sustainability plan is starting to make a real difference to the way the farmers in the region grow their fruit. We use mango in lots of our recipes (including this and this) and we really hope you think they’re as tasty as we do. 

Sourcing our strawberries

Strawberries. Whether they’re foraged at a pick-your-own, served with a side of cream at the tennis or crushed lovingly into our drinks, they’re pretty delicious. To make sure that only the finest fruit makes it into our recipes, our berry team travel to sunny Southern Spain every April to see for themselves how our fruit is grown.

 

After several years of buying Spanish strawberries, we’ve managed to build our very own innocent supply chain in the region. This ensures that only the farmers who grow their strawberries sustainably – the innocent approved growers - are able to supply the fruit for our drinks. 

For the last 5 years, we’ve been working with farmers in the region on a project to reduce the amount of water used to grow their strawberries.  The project has been so successful that we’re now sharing the findings with other farmers in the region, and have made a short film about it (which we’ll be sharing very soon).

We are very fussy about which strawberries make it into our drinks – we only use the very best and tastiest. We are so fussy that we even have a special label that our growers stick on the pallets to show which strawberries have the special innocent stamp of approval.

 

During their visit, the berry team look at lots of different areas of the strawberry growing and picking process; from the big stuff, such as making sure that workers have decent accommodation and food and water throughout the day, to making sure the trays that the strawberries are harvested into are super clean.

We will keep striving to make sure that our strawberries, and the people that grow them, are well taken care of because sourcing delicious fruit ethically is at the heart of the way we do things here at innocent (and always will be).

And at the end of a long day, it’s great to see we can source the best strawberries while working on protecting the environment too.