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just Five Years Ago: Coca-Cola Co buys a stake in Innocent

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Five years ago, the Coca-Cola Co signalled its first move to take a chunk of UK smoothie producer Innocent. The stake purchase would eventually lead, four years later, to Innocent giving up 100% of the company to the US soft drinks giant.

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In April 2009, it was announced that Coca-Cola had agreed to take a stake of between 10% and 20% in the smoothie maker for GBP30m (US$44.5m). At the time, an Innocent spokesperson told just-drinks the group would remain "very much a stand-alone company”. Loyal fans of Innocent were far from impressed however and voiced their displeasure at the perceived “sell out”.

“We know that some people will always disagree and we respect that, but we know this deal is a great opportunity for Innocent," said the company's Dan Germain at the time.

Meanwhile, just-drinks columnist Annette Farr suggested it would boost the flagging smoothie sector.

A year later and Coca-Cola came back for another slice. This time, the US firm upped its stake to 58%. By this stage, analysts were already predicting Coca-Cola would want all of Innocent.

In the Summer of 2011, rumours of a full takeover began circling. At the time, Innocent described the speculation as “100% false”. Coca-Cola said: “We are happy with our partnership with Innocent.”

But, last year the inevitable came about. Innocent revealed it had agreed to take a majority of share in the company. Office of Fair Trading documents later revealed that Coca-Cola was planning to take 100% in Fresh Trading, the company behind Innocent.

Today, Innocent continues to work as a standalone unit, with Coca-Cola presence both front of house and behind the scenes appearing to be minimal.


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