There has been much hand-wringing since news broke that smoothies business Innocent Drinks has sold a minority stake to Coca-Cola. "Farewell innocence," howled one Tweeter. "Anyone else feel that Innocent have bottled it?" asked another. It’s all very reminiscent of the anguish that followed Ben & Jerry’s sale to Unilever, Body Shop to L’Oreal, and Green & Black to Cadbury. Justin Francis, founder of the ethical travel business Responsible Travel, believes that the sale of the unspecified stake (between ten and 20 per cent for £30m) will mean that more and more people will now be able to eat healthily. "I think there is a tendency in some quarters to want our eco businesses to remain independent, and that they are in some way diminished by selling stakes or their business to corporate giants. I think that misses the point, which is about how to increase the real benefit of these businesses to society," says Frances whose own business is growing at 35 per cent a year. "So I say well done to the boys at Innocent. We need more high profile and successful eco businesses to demonstrate that values and profits can be happy bedfellows."
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