Coca-Cola has upped its stake in Innocent to almost 60%, as the smoothie maker continues to develop its plans for international expansion.

The latest sale, for an undisclosed sum, sees Coca-Cola add an extra 40% of the share capital to its existing holding of around 18%, which it acquired last year for £30m.

However, Innocent said founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright would retain operational control of the business.

The deal provides an exit for one of Innocent’s key original investors, US entrepreneur Maurice Pinto.

Innocent controversially sold a £30m stake in the business to the US soft drinks giant in April 2009, in a move designed to help fund its ambitious plans to grow abroad.

Reed called the latest deal “good news for all parties”.

“The deal allows our original investors to retire and realise the value they helped create and Coca-Cola gets to increase its investment in the business and we strengthen our relationship with a partner that can help our international expansion,” he said.

“Importantly for us, the founders, we keep the majority of our shares and will continue to run the business with full operational control.”

Coca-Cola regional president James Quincey added: “Our relationship is working well and the founders will continue to lead the business. We will do all we can to help innocent make its products available to more consumers in Europe.”

Innocent reported pre-tax losses of £9m in its 2008 accounts.

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