Innocent not so innocent anymore
Coca-Cola takes majority stake in British smoothie maker
Gordon Brown visited Innocent Drinks for a photo opportunity at a trendy and ethical British business, based in a key marginal seat (Hammersmith). Innocent promotes itself as ethically aware and donates 10% of its profits to charity.
Two days later, the American Coca-Cola upped its stake in Innocent to a 58% holding. The move means that Innocent's ethiscore drops from 8.5 out of 20 down to just 5.
According to Rob Harrison, editor of the Ethical Consumer magazine, "Innocent was never the most ethical smoothie company ... this accolade went to companies using extensively fairtrade or organic ingredients. Innocent did however have a distinct social mission which may be eroded by Coca-Cola."
Coca-Cola have been criticised particularly for links with:
- water extraction impacts on local communities in developing countries
- suppression of trade union activity in Colombia
- sale of unhealthy drinks products to children.
See our free ethical buyer's guide to Smoothies to see which ones we recommend, and how Innocent rate in comparison.
Innocent's three founders said most of the shares bought by Coca-Cola were from the firm's original investor, Maurice Pinto, who wants to retire.
"As for us, we're selling a minority of our shares, but keeping the majority of them, and we will continue to lead the business, with no change or loss of control. The deal gives no new rights to Coke," they said.
A photo was taken of Gordon Brown under a sign in Innocent's HQ saying 'tough times don't last, tough people do'. Just as well he wasn't facing the other way under another Innocent sign that said 'you can't polish a turd'.