Smoothie firm Innocent moved into food in 2008

Smoothie firm Innocent moved into food in 2008

The Coca-Cola Co. has upped its stake in smoothie maker Innocent Drinks to 58%.

The deal involves Coca-Cola buying the shares of Innocent’s two original start-up investors, who want to retire, the UK firm said today (9 April).

In addition, each of the founders of Innocent will relinquish a minority of their own shares.

Innocent, which controls more than two thirds of the UK smoothie market, agreed to sell a stake of between 15% and 20% in its business to Coca-Cola last year for GBP30m (US$49m).

Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent, said the second deal is “good news for all parties”.

“It allows our original investors to retire and realise the value they helped create, Coca-Cola gets to increase its investment in the business and we strengthen our relationship with a partner that can help our international expansion. Importantly for us, the founders, we keep the majority of our shares and will continue to run the business with full operational control.”

Reed added that Innocent's relationship with Coca-Cola is “going well”.

James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s business unit president for north-west Europe and the Nordics, said: “We are excited to invest further in innocent’s future. We have long admired their brand and their products and believe in the business’s long-term growth potential. Our relationship is working well and the founders will continue to lead the business. We will do all we can to help innocent make its products available to more consumers in Europe.”

The founders will continue to lead the business as before, Innocent said, donating 10% of profits to charity.

The agreement is subject to approval by the competent merger control authorities. Financial details were not disclosed.

In November, Innocent reported pre-tax losses of GBP11.2m (US$18.8m) for the year ending 31 December 2008, compared to profits of GBP12m the year before, according to accounts filed by the firm with Companies House.

Innocent made its first push into food in 2008 with the launch of a range of vegetable snack pots.