Innocent Sells (Out?) to Coca Cola

Innocent Smoothies sold photo

Image from TreeHugger

It's becoming a familiar story: little ethical company starts up, becomes a success and is bought by huge multi-national. There was Green & Black chocolate, Body Shop, Ben & Jerry's and now the little yoghurt shake that grew: Innocent.

TreeHugger April first spotted the potential deal in her post in March and now the news is out that they have sold between 10% and 20% to Coca-Cola for £30m.

happy owners innocent photo

Image from Guardian

The owners were three young students when they started the business ten years ago. They tried out the smoothies at a music festival, posting a sign asking if they should give up their jobs to make smoothies. They got a thumbs-up from the buyers and off they went.

They are adamant that nothing will change with the sale. In an open letter on their website they write: "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 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."

They want to expand the business into Europe and need the financial backing of a big company to do this. While some are sceptical about the sale of an ethical healthy smoothie business to Coke which has been critisised for its ultra-sweet drinks and contribution to obesity, others defend the sale.

grass van innocent photo

Image from

In The Times: "Anyone who worries about the nation's diet should support the democratisation of good nutrition. When Innocent smoothies were included in McDonald's Happy Meals in 2007 it was seen as an inappropriate combination, rather than as an education for young palates."

There have been many examples of sales to big companies. Body Shop sold to L'Oreal, TreeHugger to Discovery Communications and Pret a Manger to MacDonalds and now a private equity firm, and Ben & Jerry's to Unilever. Certainly Cadbury's has expanded their ethical remit, starting with the purchase of Green & Black chocolate in 2007 and now going completely over to Fairtrade chocolate. Guardian
More on Innocent
Innocent Drinks--What Makes a Sustainable Smoothie?
Nobody's Innocent
When is a Sell Out a Sell Out

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