Coca-Cola takes majority stake in Innocent smoothies
COCA-COLA has taken a majority stake in the smoothie maker, Innocent.
The drinks giant paid £30m (€34.2m) for an 18pc stake in the company a year ago but has increased that now to about 58pc.
Under the terms of the deal, Coca-Cola will buy the shares of original investors and some shares of the founders of the company. The American firm will be a passive investor in the business with the founders retaining day-to-day control.
Innocent was founded in 1998 by three students. It now has annual sales of more than £100m (€114m).
Co-founder Richard Reed described the deal as "good news for all parties".
"Coca-Cola gets to increase its investment in the business and we strengthen our relationship with a partner that can help our expansion," he said.
In what appeared to be an effort to tamp down suggestions that Innocent had "sold out" by selling shares to a corporation of Coca-Cola's size, a spokesperson emphasised that "share ownership and operational control of the business are fully separate".
"As long as Innocent's three founders remain shareholders in the business they retain full operational control," she added.
James Quincey, Coca-Cola's business unit president for northwest Europe and the Nordics, described the move as "exciting" for the company.
"We have long admired their brand and their products and believe in (their) 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," he said.
The move has been seen as part of a continued effort by Coca-Cola to get away from criticism that its drinks are too unhealthy.