Coca-Cola becomes majority owner of Innocent smoothies

The American drinks giant bought an 18% stake in the company a year ago for £30m, but has now increased its shareholding by a further 40% to 58%.

The price of these additional shares has not been disclosed.

Innocent’s three founders said most of the shares bought by Coca Cola were from the firm’s original investor, Maurice Pinto, who wanted to exit the business and to retire.

“As for us, we’re selling a minority of our shares, but keeping the majority of them, and we will continue to lead the business, with no change or loss of control. The deal gives no new rights to Coke,” they said.

Innocent promotes itself as ethically aware and donates 10% of its profits to charity. A fact that many, even with their original level of shareholding, thought was at odds with the large US group as shareholders, with many thinking that it would damage the Innocent brand value.

The firm was set up in 1999 by the three friends who spent £500 on fruit, turned it into smoothies and sold them at a small London music festival.