Coca-Cola becomes majority shareholder in Innocent

Coca-Cola has increased its stake in Innocent to almost 60%, though the company’s founders will retain operational control of the business.

Innocent campaign
Innocent campaign

The soft drinks giant already had an 18% stake in the smoothes maker, and now increases its stake by 40% to take the majority shareholding in the company.

The deal involves Coca-Cola buying the shares of innocent’s two original start-up investors, who want to retire.  In addition, each of the founders of innocent will relinquish a minority of their own shares, but retain the majority of them.

The agreement is subject to approval by the competent merger control authorities.

According to the Britvic Soft Drinks Report, smoothies saw sales fall by 28% in the past year and account for just 1% of the soft drinks marketplace and 0.3% of the impulse purchase marketplace.

Innocent says that its founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright will retain operational control of the business and will continue to pursue their mission of getting healthy, natural food and drinks to as many people in as many places as possible – as well as pushing hard for better social and environmental standards across the business and donating 10% of profits to charity.  

Reed says: “The deal allows our original investors to retire and realise the value they helped create and 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.”

Coca-Cola regional president James Quincey adds: “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.”

Innocent recently announced a partnership with National Trust for an on-pack promotion that aims to increase the bee population, which begins later this month.

The company has set out new plans to triple its business within two years by targeting 300,000 impulse outlets and cash and carries. It hopes the new outlets will help to add at least £50m of new sales by 2012, and will back the sales drive with a £2m marketing campaign, including a summer poster push.

Innocent will also give retailers new point-of-sale material including window posters and shelf strips, as well as £1.49 price-marked packs and discounts. Commercial director Dave Pickup is spearheading the new sales and marketing push, which also includes the This Waters range.

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