Founder of Snapple drinks empire, Arnold Greenberg, dies

Arnold Greenberg pioneered beverages for health-conscious consumers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 3:26am

Arnold Greenberg, who began his career selling pickles and herring from a New York City storefront and went on to become a founder of Snapple, the international beverage giant, has died of cancer. He was 90.

In 1972, Greenberg, who was by then running a health food store in the East Village in Manhattan, joined forces with two old friends, Leonard Marsh and Hyman Golden, to sell fruit juices to health food stores. A part-time concern, the juice business performed modestly in its early years.

Then, in the late 1970s, the three men hit on the idea of producing a soft drink flavoured only with natural juice. An early effort by their company, by then known as Unadulterated Food Products, was an explosive failure: they marketed a carbonated apple juice that fermented in its bottles and sent a spate of caps blasting.

But the name they had coined for the drink, Snapple (an amalgam of "snappy" and "apple"), proved so evocative that it was soon adopted by the company as a whole.

When they discovered the name was already owned by a small company in Texas, which appeared to have little interest in using it, they bought the name for US$500.

The Snapple Beverage Corp became one of the first companies to offer a wide line of juices and carbonated drinks made with natural ingredients. Sales were buoyed by the rising tide of health-conscious consumers in the 1980s; in 1987, after Snapple introduced the first in its line of bottled iced teas, it became an undisputed leader in the New Age beverage market.

As Snapple's founders often said, one of their greatest pleasures lay in developing and naming new flavours. Not every name passed muster, however. In the 1990s, they produced a guava drink, eventually marketed as Guava Mania.

As Greenberg told CBS This Morning in 1994, the three partners also gave serious consideration to Guava Vavoom and Guava Nagila.

By 1994, when Snapple was bought for US$1.7 billion by Quaker Oats, it was recording annual sales of about US$700 million.