ceo bails on bev co: can baller brand band save the day?
Steve’s breakdown: We’re talkin’ ’bout Jones Soda Co. and the crew there is bummed out because their fearless leader has bailed. She was the life that brought the company back to life back in the day. Now they are wondering aimlessly. Read on and maybe come up with a few new ideas to pick up their spirits.
SEATTLE, WA: Jones Soda Co. CEO Jennifer Cue has stepped down from her position, the company announced in a press release this morning. Jamie Colbourne has been named interim CEO.
Cue, who was appointed CEO in 2012, is the company’s second largest shareholder after cannabis investment firm SOL Global purchased a 9.8% stake last year. She will remain on the company’s board of directors.
“I would also like to thank Jennifer Cue for her many years of service and dedication to Jones Soda,” said Michael Fleming, Jones Soda’s chairman of the board, in the release. “Her leadership played an integral role in evolving Jones and Lemoncocco into authentic and unique brands that resonate well with consumers.”
Cue originally joined Seattle-based Jones Soda in 1995 and spent a decade at the company in various roles, including COO and CFO, before departing in 2005. She rejoined the company as CEO in 2012.
Reached by phone today, Cue said she was enthusiastic about bringing in an experienced “fresh pair of eyes” in Colbourne to run the business.
“We had a couple of challenging years, and I had the opportunity to meet Jamie, who is fantastic,” she said. “I’m going to be working hand-in-hand with him to assist through the process. I’m still very involved in wanting to see the success of this business.”
Colbourne is a Seattle-based CPG executive with a broad range of food and beverage experience, having most recently served as CEO at holding company JGC Foods. His prior roles include CFO at Quaker Oats (PepsiCo), CEO and President of Tully’s Coffee and CEO at Harry’s Fresh Foods. He is also a member of the board at Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt, Bargreen Ellison and Harbor Wholesale Foods.
“Jones Soda presents an exciting opportunity to significantly grow a brand that has developed a reputation for unique and great tasting craft soda within its current customer base,” he said in the release. “I look forward to leveraging my expertise in growing CPG and food distribution companies as we implement the necessary strategies to execute on the Company’s initiatives and return Jones to profitable growth.”
Fleming described Colbourne as a “highly qualified executive” with a track record of developing profit growth strategies in CPG. “We believe his unique experience in expanding distribution networks and landing partnerships with national retailers will be an invaluable asset,” he said.
Jones Soda reported drops in both revenue and gross profit during its Q4 and full year 2019 earnings report in March, driven by a 9% decline in its fountain business as the result of a decrease in the brand’s 7-Eleven store count.
The Seattle-based craft soda maker reported $11.5 million in full year revenue, down 6% from $12.6 million the year before. Total revenue for the fourth quarter was $2.2 million, down from $2.3 million year-over-year.
Along with a slump in fountain sales, production issues hampered the growth of Jones subline Lemoncocco last year. Cue noted that both segments appeared to be moving back on track prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Both [Jones fountain sales and Lemoncocco] are potentially hit by the pandemic because they are food-service oriented, while Jones has seen good things come out of grocery numbers in the last several weeks,” she said.
After eight years at the helm at Jones, Cue said she would think about her next move after a brief hiatus.
“I’m probably going to take some time off and I’ll sort of consider options after that,” she said. “Right now 100% of my focus is getting Jamie up to speed on Jones and making sure it has all the horsepower behind it.”