Brash and unpredictable, the Seattle beverage maker's founder and former CEO, Peter van Stolk, built a cult by positioning Jones as the anti-Coke. Its offerings have included flavors such as Jelly Donut, Egg Nog, and Bug Juice, sold in bottles labeled with customer-submitted photos .The strategy worked - for a while. But now, following a disastrous expansion plan that resulted in a net loss of $11.6 million last year, the firm is striving to master Business 101.
Jones faltered after it introduced a line of canned soft drinks in major retail stores such as Target and Wal-Mart - a move that placed it in direct competition with beverage titans Coca-Cola and Pepsi. "Big mistake," says Suzanne Price, a consumer products analyst with ThinkEquity Partners in San Francisco. "Jones got greedy and became one of dozens of brands lining the supermarket shelves - with no infrastructure to compete there."
Now new CEO Stephen Jones says his top priority is to build a solid corporate infrastructure for the soda maker. He intends to recruit more distributors, strengthen the sales force, and smooth out kinks in the company's supply chain - steps that will help Jones better compete with big-name rivals. Over the next few months Jones and his team plan to move the firm's sodas into stores more efficiently and review its product line, which is as cluttered as a kid's toy box.
Despite the new emphasis on nuts and bolts, Jones' executives plan to keep their creative spark alive. This Thanksgiving the company is thinking about reintroducing a quirky holiday favorite: Pass the Brussels Sprouts soda.