Jones Soda was founded in 1987 by ski instructor Peter Van Stolk in Canada. The company was originally named the Urban Juice and Soda Company. The company began as a distributor of branded beverages. It began to market its own brands in 1995 and 1996 and this included Jones Soda. Van Stolk’s idea was to create an indie soda for people like himself who were drawn to alternative sports. Today, Jones Soda is based in Seattle, Washington.
From the beginning, the Jones Soda brand was unique. They developed a clear bottle and instead of a standard, ubiquitous label, Jones Soda labels featured pictures sent in by consumers. These images changed regularly, depicting ironic slices of life that added to the brand’s hip status. The company’s motto “Run with the little guy… create some change.”, appears on most labels. Jones Soda is known for its variety of flavors and high quality ingredients including pure sugar cane. A major part of their early success was their interesting flavors like “Mashed Potato and Butter”, “Blue Bubblegum”, “Fufu Berry”, and “WhoopAss Energy Drink”. Early distribution for the soda was just as different. Rather than focus on big chain stores, Jones went where its target demographic hung out: surf, skate and snowboard shops; tattoo and piercing parlors; and music stores. The company also began using independent distributors to get the product on retail shelves in convenience stores, delicatessens, sandwich shops, and select supermarkets. Rather than television commercials or magazine ads, Jones focused on product placement. Each year, the brand receives significant publicity for their unique holiday flavors including “Turkey & Gravy”, “Gingerbread”, “Candy Cane” and “Pear Tree”. The brand built a strong loyal following as evidenced by over 1 million Facebook fans today.
However, not all brand stories turn out as planned. It was a great regional brand with a very attractive demographic. The company went public. As Jones tried to expand and gain national distribution, they faced many challenges. But like most companies that benefit from a meteoric rise, Jones Soda ended up crashing just as fast. Hobbled by distribution and production problems, limited marketing, and an inexperienced team, Jones never saw the hoped for jump in sales. Jones lacked the sales force, distribution source, and strong merchandising to be successful. They tried to expand too fast and lost sight of what had made them successful. Sales have fallen from a high of $40 Million in 2007 to $17 Million in 2012.
Today, there is a new leadership team in place intent on scaling back, cutting expenses, and focusing the brand on its core and capitalizing on its loyal following. A recent agreement with Whole Foods to sell a new line of low-calorie natural soda in 25 Northern California stores is a step in the right direction. The brand will also be stocked 50 Albertsons Stores in Southern California. Personally, I hope they are successful.
Have you tried Jones Soda?