Coke increases stake in Innocent to near 100%

Coca-Cola has increased its stake in Innocent Drinks to almost 100 per cent, prompting the smoothie makers’ founders to step down from the day to day running of the business by selling the majority of their remaining shares to the soft drinks giant.

Innocent

Innocent co-founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright will retain a minority equity holding and sit on an executive committee, which will continue to support the business as it enters the next phase of expansion.

Innocent will announce a new leadership team in April, including the creation of a new chief executive role. The company says the team will largely consist of existing staff members.

It is not yet known how Innocent marketing and innovation director Douglas Lamont’s role will be affected by the transaction, which is still subject to regulatory approval.

Coca-Cola first invested in Innocent four years ago and increased its stake to 58 per cent in 2010. Coca-Cola is now increasing its stake to between 90 and 99 per cent, but Innocent could not confirm the exact figure until the deal is approved.

Since then Innocent has benefited from Coca-Cola helping it to reduce advertising costs and being part of the sponsor’s Olympics portfolio during the London 2012 Games.

Richard Reed announced the news to Innocent customers on a YouTube video earlier this afternoon (22 February).

He says: “Given the success of the relationship, [Coca-Cola] will be increasing their investment, supporting even more innovation and international expansion. Importantly for us, the business will be run by a home-grown innocent team in the same unique innocent way, with the founders remaining involved to support the business in the years ahead.”

James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s group president for Europe, says Coke is confident in the long term growth potential of Innocent and its team and considers its brand values as “fundamental to continued success”.

Innocent doubled its turnover from 2008 to £209m in 2012 and is the top smoothie brand in Europe in terms of market share, according to Nielsen.

This month Innocent launched a noodle-based range of Veg Pots, inspired by Asian street food, which will go on sale in April.

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