Innocent ravaged in downturn after smoothie sales fall

Smoothie maker Innocent, which sold a minority stake to drinks giant Coca-Cola in April, fell into the red last year due to falling sales.<br /><br />The group reported a pre-tax loss of &pound;11.2m for the year ending 31 December&nbsp; 2008, compared to a profit of &pound;12m the year before.<br /><br />Innocent did not report a dividend, compared to 2007&rsquo;s &pound;13.9m pay out.<br /><br />The 10-year-old company started from humble origins when co-founders Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright &mdash; who met as students at Cambridge University &ndash;&nbsp; spent &pound;500 on fruit, turned it into smoothies, and sold them at a small music festival in London with a sign asking &ldquo;Do you think we should give up <br />our jobs to make these smoothies?&rdquo;<br /><br />But the firm, which now controls around 82 per cent of the smoothie market, suffered sales falling by 17 per cent to &pound;105m in the UK last year and a seven per cent drop in group revenues.<br /><br />Innocent, which prides itself in its eco-friendly and non-corporate approach also came under fire from fans after agreeing to &pound;30m deal with Coca-Cola to ramp up its European expansion.<br /><br />But despite falling sales last year the group said it is now on-track to deliver further growth. International sales have lifted by 82 per cent to &pound;19.6m. <br /><br />Its recent foray into vegetable pots is set to exceed &pound;8m in revenues this year and its flavoured bottle water brand &ndash; This Water &ndash; has reported a 57 per cent growth in sales.