- Jones Soda President Mark Murray has added the title of CEO, the company said in a statement.
- Murray began working with the Seattle-based beverage maker as a consultant earlier this year, and has been president since September 1. The company credits his help in engineering a turnaround that led to a 17% year-over-year third quarter revenue increase and improved gross margins after six consecutive quarters of revenue declines.
- The one-time darling of the craft soda space, Jones Soda has struggled to compete in recent years, causing it to lose money and watch sales trend lower. After eight years at the helm, Jennifer Cue announced in April she would step down from the position of CEO.
Jones Soda has touted itself as a maker of premium soda, with many of its offerings in unique flavors that Big Soda wouldn't touch, including Blue Bubblegum, Crushed Melon and Diet Strawberry Lime. Many of its flavors are available in cane sugar and sugar-free options. Its bottles' labels are adorned with photographs submitted by consumers to create an emotional connection to the brand.
But the uniqueness of its offerings hasn't been enough to help Jones Soda in a world where consumer tastes and preferences are changing — specifically, the push to cut sugar intake. Meanwhile, the $10 million company finds itself competing against soda titans like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, each worth more than $200 billion.
In 2007, Jones Soda's stock price approached $30 a share. It has since fallen to just 16 cents. But the company's challenges have attracted at least one big investor. Last year, Heavenly Rx, a hemp portfolio company of cannabis investment firm SOL Global Investments, announced it had acquired 25% of the company. Jones used the money to develop beverages with CBD and to invest in its core bottled and fountain drinks.
Murray's promotion to CEO marks a quick jump for the CPG and foodservice industry veteran. Prior to joining Jones Soda, Murray served as the president of JGC Foods, a 600-employee North American food manufacturer specializing in fresh soups, sauces, sides and entrées. He's also held roles at Campbell Soup and served 22 years with Kraft Foods.
His experience already shows signs of paying off, according to Jones Soda. Since Murray started working with the company, he debuted new cost and management controls, a revised sales strategy focusing on core product offerings, and a new three-year strategic plan that includes expansion into foodservice and club channels.
“His experience, guidance and vision have helped us streamline costs, improve almost every aspect of operations, raise brand awareness, and build strong momentum, even in the midst of a pandemic," Mick Fleming, chairman for Jones Soda, said in a statement. "Considering what he has accomplished in just a few months, having Mark at the helm positions the company to achieve sustainable, profitable growth in the months and years ahead.”
In the company's third quarter, revenue increased $500,000 to $3.5 million. While that's just one quarter, it marks a noticeable improvement for Jones Soda. In 2019, revenue at the company fell $1.1 million to $11.5 million. Murray will likely look to further improve the company's finances, points where its beverages are sold, oversee an expansion into CBD offerings and keep its products relevant with consumers. The early results suggest Murray is the right man for the job, but he has a daunting to-do list, even without a global pandemic.