Innocent Drinks made a pre-tax loss of £9m last year, but the UK business had remained profitable and the losses related to exceptional items and "planned investment" in the overseas operations, according to co-founder Richard Reed.

While admitting 2008 was "definitely not our finest year", with smoothie sales down 20% in the UK, Reed said the business was "on top of the situation, and back in growth," with plans to double sales in the next three years.

"In 2008 we faced difficult headwinds, with two new competitors launching, exchange rate fluctuations and, of course, recession," said Reed. "But the UK business remained profitable, and the losses related to our planned investment to support our European operations, where sales grew by 82%."

The losses mostly related to a one-off charge of £1.4m due to foreign exchange losses, and a £5.5m exceptional charge under FRS 20 relating to Innocent's employee incentive scheme following Coca-Cola's £30m investment in a minority stake.

The deal with Coca-Cola was a good move, Reed added. "They have been true to their word and have left us alone. But when we ask for help they give it, and it's been invaluable, whether it's buying fruit or improving media rates."