Natural Foods Merchandiser

Customers jonesin' for healthier Jones Soda

Trendy Jones Soda hopes to soon be at the forefront of a new craze: canned soft drinks made with pure cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.

Jones, a Seattle-based manufacturer of premium soft drinks with quirky flavors such as turkey-and-gravy, will introduce 12-ounce canned sodas with pure cane sugar in late January, said Marketing Manager Seth Godwin. The company is currently reformulating the rest of its products and expects to switch entirely to pure cane sugar by June, he said.

"According to the preliminary research we've done, a large percentage of the population is asking for products made without high-fructose corn syrup," Godwin said. "We'll be the only canned soft drink made with pure cane sugar."

High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to diabetes and other illnesses caused by obesity. Godwin said the goal behind Jones' ingredient switch is to "not all of a sudden make soda good for you, but to make a more premium product that's better for you."

The switch may make Jones—which is sold in gourmet groceries and in Target stores, Starbucks, Panera Bread and Barnes & Noble cafes—more attractive to natural foods retailers. Jones' natural sodas and organic teas are sold in natural foods stores, but its signature sodas often aren't because they contain artificial colors, Godwin said.

"We'd have to limit what color the product could be, because of stuff like red dye No. 4, and one of the coolest things about Jones Soda is that the color is really spectacular," he said. "But we'll continue improving our product to fit into the natural foods channel as well as we can."

Godwin said pure cane sugar is more expensive than high-fructose corn syrup, but he doesn't expect Jones Soda prices to "have a major change—maybe a slight adjustment" that has yet to be determined.

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