Snapple Guy’s Overnight Success Took Decades; Leonard Marsh transformed a tiny fruit-juice supplier into Snapple, a national brand of fruit-flavored beverages and iced tea powered by quirky marketing and bold flavors

May 22, 2013, 7:41 p.m. ET

Snapple Guy’s Overnight Success Took Decades



Leonard Marsh transformed a tiny fruit-juice supplier into Snapple, a national brand of fruit-flavored beverages and iced tea powered by quirky marketing and bold flavors.

Leonard Marsh launched Snapple with two friends in the early 1970s. So successful was the brand that Snapple inspired dozens of imitators and prompted major soft-drink companies to introduce their own fruit and tea beverages to compete. Mr. Marsh, who died Tuesday at age 80, launched Snapple in New York with two friends in the early 1970s to supply natural fruit juices to health-food stores. After introducing lemonade and fruit-flavored ice tea in distinctive wide-mouth bottles, the company went public in a much-ballyhooed initial public offering in 1992. Snapple became a “New Age” beverage, touted by the company as “Made from the best stuff on earth.”Yet it also appealed to a less trend-conscious demographic, as exemplified by its radio advertising spokesmen, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, and Wendy Kaufman, an actual employee who answered Snapple fan mail in wacky TV ads.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Marsh was the child of Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a cobbler.

Mr. Marsh and his brother-in-law Hyman Golden originally ran a Brooklyn-based window-washing and office-maintenance business. In 1972, they teamed up with Arnold Greenberg, who operated a health-food store in Manhattan’s East Village, to create Unadulterated Food Products Inc. The company made juices and sold eggs and produce.

After renaming the company after one of their early products, carbonated apple juice, the founders became known collectively as the “Snapple Guys.” They built up the brand one cooler at a time in New York City’s pizzerias and bodegas.

“The deli is my Wal-MartWMT -0.47% ” Mr. Marsh liked to say.

Mr. Marsh, who was the chief executive, was the company’s most prescient taster of new products and he favored goofy names like Mango Madness and Guava Mania.

“Lenny would say, ‘If we like it, they’ll like it,’ ” said Ms. Kaufman, who worked in public relations at Snapple. ” ‘We don’t need a focus group. We are a focus group.’ ”

It was Snapple’s decision to start bottling iced tea that made it a major player on thenational beverage FIZZ -8.22% scene. The company innovated by bottling its tea hot, avoiding preservatives and offering it year-round instead of just in the summer as many bottled iced teas had been.

Introduced in the late 1980s, Snapple iced tea was the main factor behind exploding sales that peaked at $674 million in 1994, up from $24 million five years earlier.

“We call Snapple the ‘overnight success story that took over two decades to happen,’ ” Mr. Marsh told a tea-industry trade group in 1995.

Mr. Marsh recruited a network of more than 300 bottlers and distributors in all 50 states.

The Snapple headquarters in Valley Stream, N.Y., was a low-key family-style operation where anybody might offer a suggestion for a new flavor name and where Mr. Marsh might be found playing computer solitaire in an office he shared with the company’s chairman.

Investment firm Thomas H. Lee Co. acquired control of Snapple for $140 million in 1992, retaining Mr. Marsh as CEO.

In 1994, Quaker Oats Co. bought Snapple for $1.7 billion and Mr. Marsh left the company. By then, Snapple produced 52 flavors of tea, juice drinks and sodas. But sales fell when the brand was grouped with a stable of products including Gatorade. Quaker sold the brand to Triarc in 1997 for $309 million. In a 1995 interview, Mr. Marsh said Quaker removed Snapple’s “excitement.” The brand subsequently was sold several times and now is part of Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. DPS -0.04%

“We built a better mousetrap, nothing more,” Mr. Marsh told Beverage World in 1993. “Tea was around for many years. We made it better.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: