Dean Colson fits that bill. The 11-year-old from Puyallup was among about 100 people who attended Jones Soda’s annual shareholders meeting at Experience Music Project (EMP) on 27 May 2009.
He watched the presentation of new CEO Joth Ricci, then made a public recommendation: lunch pack-flavoured sodas. The lunch pack is similar to Jones’ Christmas, Hanukkah and Seahawks packs in that they feature flavours never seen before in the soda world. Colson envisions chicken nugget, pizza, French fry and hamburger flavours.
It would be something for the kids, with whom Jones is clamoring to reconnect after problems with its national roll-out of canned soda a few years ago, when its profit and stock price was devastated.
While focusing on that huge effort, Jones lost a lot of convenience and other small store accounts that are important to reaching young customers. To fix the problem, Ricci is pushing for Jones to add 100,000 new distribution points this year.
Partly, this means moving into new territory such as Quebec, where Jones began selling soda this spring. It even rolled into Starbucks stores there, despite having lost its US Starbucks account a few years ago.
It also means coming up with new products and packaging that appeal to more stores, like a new line of sodas for the Latino market that will ship next week and an energy drink called Jones Gaba that costs about $1 more than Jones’ sodas.
Jones also wants to do more with its fun, customisable labels, which Ricci called “our single most important asset”.
Labels that gave people a choice between democrat and republican in the presidential race, then hailed the new chief with ‘Orange You Glad for Change Cola’ “blew the doors off the place”, Ricci said, with “the place” being Washington DC.
Despite such hyperbole, Ricci’s presentation was more button-down than the lively annual meetings that founder Peter van Stolk used to hold in a cramped room with folding chairs at Jones Soda’s headquarters in South Lake Union.
In contrast to van Stolk’s excited descriptions of new flavours and his penchant for peppering sentences with ‘like’, Ricci focused on the numbers.
There was a chart showing Jones’ string of quarterly losses and a map showing its distribution (25% of cases are sold in the midwest, 3% in the southeast).
He talked about a customer survey in which more than 60% of respondents knew who Jones Soda was, but only 2% buy it frequently, most of them because they can’t find it.
“That tells me that there’s opportunity,” he said.
Even the requisite video with blaring rock music (which was fitting in an EMP auditorium) was more subdued than usual. Ricci said he was glad that the auditorium was only half full, taking it as a sign that shareholders are no longer burning with questions about the company’s direction.
He asked an employee to follow up with 11-year-old Colson, possibly the only attendee in Jones Soda’s target demographic. Jones gets some of its best ideas from young customers, Ricci said.
Source: Seattle Times
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