UK: Innocent Drinks bunks up with Coca-Cola Co.

By | 6 April 2009

The Coca-Cola Co. has secured a minority stake in UK smoothie company Innocent Drinks.

The UK-based firm confirmed today (6 April) that Coca-Cola Co. will take a share of "between 10% and 20%" in Innocent, for GBP30m (US$44.5m). The funds will be used to "help fund the mission to get more natural healthy products to more people across Europe", Innocent said.

"We're excited by this minority investment as it enables us to do more of what we are here to do - get natural, healthy products to as many people as possible," said the co-founder of Innocent, Richard Reed. "All the money is coming into the business to fund our European expansion and the founders will continue to lead and run the company - we will be the same people, in the same offices, making the same products in the same way.

"Every promise that Innocent has made - about making only natural healthy products, pioneering the use of better, socially and environmentally aware ingredients, packaging and production techniques, donating money to charity and having a point of view on the world - will remain. We'll just get to do them even more."

The company, which confirmed last month that it was looking to offload a minority stake, said that it chose Coca-Cola because, "as well as providing the funds which will allow us to increase our investment in the brand both in the UK and internationally, they can help us get our products out to more people in more places".

A spokesperson for Innocent told just-drinks that Innocent would remain "very much a stand-alone company.

"It's an exciting next chapter for Innocent, to be able to use the money to expand, specifically in Europe," the spokesperson said.

James Quincey, group business unit president for Coca-Cola Europe, added: "We have long admired their brand, their products and their unique approach to business."

Quincey will sit on Innocent's investment board, which will meet once a quarter, the spokesperson said, adding that no other personnel from Coca-Cola would be moving across to join Innocent.

Last year, worsening economic conditions hit Innocent smoothie sales, with like-for-like sales for the six months to the end of September falling by around 20% in value. The drop was blamed at the time on declining consumer spending power, largely due to the rising cost of bills and food staples, as part of a general economic downturn.

Sectors: Soft drinks, Water

Companies: Innocent, Coca-Cola Co

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UK: Innocent Drinks bunks up with Coca-Cola Co.

There is currently 1 comment on this article

Innocent and Coke need to move very quickly now as the smoothie market has long started in Continental Europe. In the UK, Innocent was the first. Everywhere else where they are not present, they will be a me-too. But is 'moving very quickly' the right strategy?

It makes you wonder whether the UK success can be duplicated elsewhere, given the slow-burn, word-of-mouth, grass roots development that anchored its business there. If you do the normal, wham-bam, FMCG thing that Coke normally does, you're not going to get the same effect or have the same credibility that is needed for the Innocent brand.

Call me a cynic, but it looks more like an exit strategy for the original shareholders than a crusade to spread the word of Innocent to the world... said at 4:33 pm, April 6, 2009

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