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Smoothie Drink Pioneers Sell to Coca Cola for £30 million

Smoothie Drink Pioneers Sell to Coca Cola for £30 million

Ian King Deputy | UK Times

A decade ago three friends mashed £500 worth of oranges, bananas and pineapples together on their kitchen table to make a giant smoothie. Yesterday they made what could be described as a giant killing – they sold a small stake in their company to Coca-Cola for £30 million.

Innocent Drinks, now Britain’s leading smoothie maker, was valued at up to £300 million in the deal, in which the American soft drinks giant bought a 10 to 20 per cent stake.

The co-founders, Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, will not be taking any money out of the business as a result of the deal, but will use all funds raised by Coke to finance Innocent’s expansion into Europe, on which the American giant will also provide expert advice.

Though the company is known for its idealistic stance, Mr Reed insisted that the business would not be compromised by getting into bed with Coke, which is seen by many as a symbol of US cultural hegemony.

He told The Times: “We have been massively impressed by the people at Coke. Everything has been about ensuring that we continue to do what we are doing and to do more of it. We are in business, let’s not be naive about this, but we do have this deeply felt mission 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. All that will remain.

“It is going to be entirely positive for people who drink our drinks. Myself, Adam and Jon will all continue to lead the business – we are going nowhere.”

The venture began in 1998 in a kitchen in West London, when the three men, then working in management consultancy and advertising, bought enough fresh fruit to make smoothies to sell at the Parson’s Green jazz festival. The three set up a stall with a sign reading: “Do you think we should give up our jobs to make these smoothies?” alongside two bins for the empties, one labelled “yes” and the other “no”. By the end of the day, the “yes” bin was overflowing.