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Coca-Cola ups its share of smoothie brand

April 9, 2010 at 2:36 PM

ATLANTA, April 9 (UPI) -- Coca-Cola said Friday it had increased its ownership of British smoothie producer Fresh Trading Ltd. to 58 percent of the company.

Coca-Cola purchased 18 percent of the company -- makers of smoothie brand Innocent Drinks -- a year ago for $46 million. The company at the time was valued at about $460 million. Terms of Friday's deal were not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Fresh Trading was formed 11 years ago and has built its reputation as a small company that produces drinks with all-natural ingredients and gives 10 percent of its profits each year to charity.

Richard Reed, one of three company founders, said, "It's been a good 12 months for Innocent -- our sales are up. We've grown our business in Europe, and Coke has been the hands-off investor they promised to be," The Times of London reported.

An early investor, Maurice Pinto, "is now 76 and wants to retire," Reed said. "We're really happy for him."

Coca-Cola said the company that now employs 220 people had "long-term growth potential."

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