The idea of sticking knitted hats on soft drink bottles may have been born on the wilder shores of the imagination, but it has struck a chord. About 200,000 hats will be knitted this winter, the third year of the partnership between Innocent Drinks and Age Concern. And there is a kind of symbolic logic to the practice: the woollen-topped smoothie bottles struggling to keep warm in the supermarket chiller mirror the struggles of older people to keep warm over the winter months.
The woolly hat promotion initially involved both Age Concern and another old people's charity, ExtraCare. But because the initiative has swelled in popularity, Innocent has decided to focus on one partner.
This year's collaboration has increased massively. Age Concern supporters will knit about 150,000 hats, with knitting circles being formed to reach the target. Innocent will drum up another 50,000 hats and, with 50p per woollen-topped smoothie being donated to the charity, it is hoped that £100,000 will be raised.
The money will go to fund Age Concern's Winter Warmth grants, which the charity says will be needed more than ever. With the rises in fuel prices not being matched by increases in government winter fuel payments to older people, this year's crisis could be particularly acute. Last year, more than 30,000 older people died of cold-related illnesses.
Age Concern says it is happy to work with Innocent because the company has a positive brand and the widespread involvement of older people in the promotion serves to dispel the image of helplessness. "Older people can be presented as passive victims; we are keen for that not to happen because that's not representative," says Zena Ambrose of Age Concern.
"They are very involved in this initiative. They are part of the solution."