Coke and Innocent, who saw that coming?

So not long after taking a significant minority stake in the company, Coke have now bought 58% of Innocent, the smoothie and foods firm known for a deeply ethical stance.

We were not sent a press release about this, as often happens in these cases.

Could it be that it suits both firms to keep this quiet?

In fairness to the Innocent founders, in large part they had little choice, according to a BBC News report:

“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..”, they said.

But they’ve still taken the opportunity to put a few quid in their own pockets. Who can blame them?

I wonder if we’ll see the usual outcry of ‘sell out’ by the hardcore ethical business folks.

It’s a shame in a way. I of course understand that after a lot of hard work entrepreneurs want to make some cash, and that of course investors do too.

It’s just that Innocent has for some time been the one really successful smaller firm that has stayed independent, whilst all around them their equivalents have been snapped up.

I’m sure Coke will allow them to continue their excellent work, they would be mad not to, it’s what they have bought. But like Cadbury and Kraft, you can’t help feeling sad that there’s just that little bit less diversity around.

Sentimentality aside, Coke’s cash will of course help the company to grow and sustain their mission – to change the way we snack, and to help us live healthier lives.

We must credit Innocent with helping positively change the way big brands and consumers looked at snack foods and fruit juices. Now we’ll see how quick they can scale their mission, whilst adhering to those core values.

Our new briefing on ethical branding, in this month’s Ethical Corporation magazine, is here.

UPDATE: The BBC has this video piece on Labour’s plans for a ‘Cadbury’s Law’, here. The proposed idea, which includes needing two thirds shareholder support rather than half, for a sale to go through, stands virtually no chance of becoming law, as far as I can tell, and is probably just pure politiking by a Government desperate for the popular vote (aren’t they all to be fair).

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