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Jones Soda fighting tough times with new business plan

BY Melissa Valliant

SEATTLE Even the Jones’ are struggling to keep up these days.

Jones Soda will be eliminating 40 percent of its 110 employees this week in a plan to save $2.6 million annually. The 21-year-old company, known for its bottled, carbonated soft drinks and their unique flavors, recently announced a drastic drop in sales.

Last year proved a tough year as well, with an $11.6 million loss when founder Peter van Stolk led the company in an expansion plan that backfired. Jones Soda began producing canned sodas that were hoped to rival PepsiCo and Coca-Cola products.

Former Coca-Cola marketing executive Stephen Jones then replaced van Stolk with the initial strategy of increasing the number of distributors and increasing canned soda sales. This plan crashed and burned this year, and Jones now plans to revert back to the company’s original roots by focusing on selling the sodas at more independent delis and pizza places, cutting back on the canned soda initiative and reducing the amount of distributors. The company has even made a deal with independent graphic novel publisher Dark Horse Comics to add cartoon images to the soda bottle labels.

“Consumers are looking for variety, something unique in this huge market,” Gary Hemphill, managing director at the Beverage Marketing Corporation, said. “Growth in this industry is coming from the smaller niches of the market, where I would include Jones Soda.”

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Cub Food hopes to spread environmental awareness with opening of ‘green’ grocery store

BY Jenna Duncan

MINNEAPOLIS Cub Food is now operating the nation’s first “green” grocery store in St. Paul, the company said. The store is certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and will save about $6,500 in energy costs per year.

To construct the store, builders used recycled materials and energy-efficient lights and fixtures. The store also has 44 solar-powered skylights and the parking lot is equipped with LED lights which have a lifetime of about 40 years.

Additionally, the outdoor landscaping will be irrigated using a system designed to conserve water and landscapers will plant drought-resistant plants around the store, Cub Food said.

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Spartan expanding acquisition plans to cover VG’s stores in Michigan

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Spartan Stores on Monday announced that it has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire 17 retail grocery stores, including 15 pharmacies, from VG’s Food Center and VG’s Pharmacy, a privately held Fenton, Michigan-based retail grocery operator.

“We are very enthused to bring VG’s, a premier Michigan retail grocery operator, further into the Spartan Stores’ family,” stated Craig Sturken, Spartan chairman. This transaction follows our successful acquisitions of D&W Food Centers and Felpausch Food Centers. The VG’s stores serve communities in key Michigan markets where we have no retail presence. The Van Gilder family has been one of our best and most loyal distribution customers for nearly 50 years, and we are very proud of our long-standing relationship with them.”

Spartan expects the transaction to close near the end of its fiscal 2009 third quarter. Upon completion, the transaction is expected to increase annual retail segment sales by approximately $310 million, with annual consolidated sales increasing approximately $160 million, as VG’s is an existing distribution customer of Spartan’s.

The acquisition grows Spartan’s footprint to 101 retail supermarkets. Prior to the announcement Spartan Stores owned and operated 84 retail supermarkets in Michigan, including Family Fare Supermarkets, Glen’s Markets, D&W Fresh Markets and Felpausch Food Centers.

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