The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has published the full text of its decision in the acquisition by The Coca-Cola Company of a minority interest in Fresh Trading Limited, which operates principally under the “Innocent” smoothie and “This Water” fruit juice brands. As there was no concern arising from the very limited horizontal overlap between the two companies product ranges, its investigation focused on the possibility of a substantial lessening of competition arising from “conglomerate effects”.
The OFT looked specifically at the possibility of the two companies foreclosing rival brands from the market by tying and bundling their respective products, as well as any potential anti-competitive effects arising from the size of the companies’ shared portfolio of products and their resultant market power. It was found that several factors, including the presence of strong competitor brands, the differences between the two companies’ product lines and the lack of incentives to engage in tying or bundling of products would restrict their ability to foreclose competitors in that way. Equally, a number of grounds, including the presence in the market of competitors with similarly large product ranges, led the OFT to find that there was unlikely to be a substantial lessening of competition due to the size of the companies’ product portfolio.