LONDON: US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola has taken a majority stake in fast-expanding British smoothie maker Innocent Drinks, but its founders said on Friday that operational control will stay in their hands.

Coca-Cola increased its stake in Innocent to 58 per cent, one year after taking an initial 18 per cent share. Financial details of the latest deal were not revealed.

In a statement, Innocent’s three co-founders said they will continue to run their ethically-minded company — which donates 10 per cent of its profits to charity — despite their reduced holdings. “We’ve agreed for Coke to buy some more shares in Innocent, principally those of Innocent’s original investor Maurice Pinto,” they said. “Maurice is now 76 and wants to retire, so this is the opportunity for him to realise the value he’s helped create. We’re really happy for him.” They continued: “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.”

Richard Reed left a career in advertising to set up Innocent with Adam Balon and Jon

Wright in 1998. They sold

their first drinks at a small music festival in London after

spending six months trying out recipes on friends.