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Linda Thomas

What caused Jones Soda to go flat?

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In Hollywood, a celebrity doesn't want to end up on the "has been" d-list. On Wall Street, a company doesn't want to be d-listed.

With its stock price closing for the last time at $0.29 a share, Seattle-based Jones Soda will be delisted from the NASDAQ Stock Market today. The company's stock has traded below $1 a share for a year.

Delisting will mean less trading as the stock moves to the over the counter, OTC Markets.

JonesSodaFive years ago, Jones Soda was bubbling along with its stock around $30 a share and almost $40 million in revenue.

It had overtaken Coca-Cola as the Seahawks' soft-drink sponsor.

It knew how to create marketing buzz too, with its unusual soft drink flavors in glass bottles with unique labels.

When the Jones "Turkey and Gravy" flavors were introduced in honor of Thanksgiving, they sold out within two hours.

To commemorate Barack Obama's inauguration, Jones released a new 'Orange You Glad For Change' orange cola flavor.

Candy corn, jelly donut, and 22 other flavors were added to the Jones Soda collection.

Then, Jones Soda went flat.

"We lost our edge," says Jennifer Cue, CEO of Jones Soda. "We got too corporate along the way. There were numerous leadership changes which were a little bit too corporate for the company. We launched a lot of different products along the way and we lost our focus on Jones Soda."

Jones started to fizzle in 2007. Analysts say Jones grew too fast and tried to expand into markets without having enough distributors lined up. They launched several new products, including a canned drink, but didn't have the expertise or support to get the soda into consumer's hands.

By the end of 2007, former Jones CEO Peter van Stolk stepped down from the company he started in Canada in the late 80s. The Seahawks and Alaska Airlines dropped Jones as a sponsor. The company refused a cash buyout from a competitor, even though it was in serious financial trouble by the end of 2009.

In the years that followed, the company changed leaders faster than you can twist a cap off a Jones Soda bottle. They went through five CEOs in five years.

Cue, who wrote the company's original business plan and served as CFO and COO during their more successful years, returned to Jones in 2012.

"I'm still in love with the brand," she says. "There's something so wonderfully intangible about Jones Soda."

She thinks Jones has introduced too many products that don't relate to their core soda brand, such as candy and novelty items. She plans to streamline what they offer and return the company's culture to its "grassroots" and "scrappy" beginnings.

That strategy has worked for another Seattle beverage company. When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO in early 2008, after a hiatus of nearly eight years, he concluded the company needed a transformation in its culture and operating approach, and a single focus on its core product - coffee.

Though Jones Soda is much smaller than Starbucks, Cue admits she is taking the same approach with her company.

"My goal is to build the company in the right way and get back to the NASDAQ," she says. "We just need to focus on the business and basically get Jones Soda into more peoples' hands."

By LINDA THOMAS

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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