- Jones Soda has appointed Jamie Colbourne as interim CEO, the craft beverage maker said in a statement. After eight years at the helm, Jennifer Cue will step down from the position of CEO. She will remain on the company’s board of directors.
- Colbourne previously served as CEO and board member for JGC Foods, a holding company that specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of branded and co-packaged soups, sauces and entrees across North America. He also has had executive positions and served on the board of directors for Tully’s Coffee, Häagen-Dazs and 7UP Canada.
- Michael Fleming, Jones Soda’s chairman of the board, said Colbourne's "unique experience in expanding distribution networks and landing partnerships with national retailers will be an invaluable asset."
Jones Soda has carved out a tiny niche in the large carbonated soft drink space where Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper dominate with billions of dollars in annual sales. But the 34-year old company has struggled in recent years as it continues to lose money. In 2019, revenue fell $1.1 million to $11.5 million.
Jones Soda has touted itself as a maker of premium soda — many of them in unique flavors that Big Soda wouldn't touch — that are adorned with photographs on the label submitted by consumers to create an emotional connection to the brand. Jones offers a variety of flavored craft sodas, including Cola, Blue Bubblegum, Crushed Melon and Diet Strawberry Lime, in cane sugar and sugar-free options.
Under Cue's leadership, the company has innovated but so far it hasn't been enough to meaningfully help the company. It has debuted Jones Ginger Beer, and it also makes Spiked Jones hard cider soda, Jones Carbonated Candy and Lemoncocco, a non-carbonated beverage combining lemon and coconut flavors. The fact that Cue will remain on the company's board indicated Jones valued her insight and what she brings to the business, but that they wanted to take the firm in a new direction.
In the statement announcing Colbourne as the interim CEO, the new leader gave a telling quote that may have hinted at some of the challenges Jones is facing as he noted the company has "developed a reputation for unique and great tasting craft soda within its current customer base."
Jones Soda appears to be struggling to expand its reach outside of its core fans who are regular purchasers of the soda — a tall order for the new leader despite his prior experience. Colbourne previously worked at JGC Foods, as well as executive positions and serving on the board at Tully’s Coffee, Häagen-Dazs and 7UP Canada. While this should enable him to come into the role with a deep understanding of the CPG space and close relationships with retailers and distributors, it by no means guarantees that success will follow.
A firm representing Jones Soda declined to make Colbourne available for an interview.
Consumers today are curtailing their soda consumption, a trend reflected in the fact that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have bulked up their offerings with energy drinks, sparking waters, coffees, teas and sports drinks. In recent years, PepsiCo's beverage unit purchased at-home water carbonator company SodaStream for $3.2 billion, CytoSport for $465 million and in March spent nearly $4 billion to purchase Rockstar Energy.
Coke also has been gobbling up brands while innovating through smaller cans coveted by people cutting back on sugar, promoting Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, announcing its first new flavors under the Coca-Cola trademark in more than a decade and overhauling its Diet Coke line by adding flavors to the mix.
For Jones Soda, it could leverage its name and popularity in craft soda to help it in cannabis. Last year, cannabis investment firm Sol Global announced it has upped its initial stake in Jones Soda to 9.8%, making it the premium soda maker's largest stockholder. Jones is currently testing its first CBD-infused product.
It's possible Sol Global gave Cue time to turn the business around, but ultimately decided to take the company in a new direction. Regardless of who is in charge, Colbourne has an uphill climb making Jones soda competitive with countless other beverage options already on the market and the deep-pocketed players who own them. Jones simply doesn't have a long runway to fail in the ultra-competitive beverage space.