In 1972, three buddies, Arnold Greenberg, Hyman Golden and Leonard Marsh were small businesspeople in New York, Hyman and Leonard with a window-washing business and Arnold with a health food store in Manhattan’s East Village.
Because Arnold was serving health oriented customers, he hit upon an idea that the three friends thought had great potential. Sell fresh fruit juices to other health food stores. The idea had merit but its success was so modest that all three guys kept their day jobs.
But in the late 1970’s, that led to another idea. At a time when most soft drinks were packed with sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives and other chemicals, offer instead a soft drink flavored only with natural juice.
To come up with a catchy name for their product they took the word “snappy,” combined it with “apple” and called it “Snapple,” a cute name people could remember and a name now recognized in most of the world.
The first drink they came up with was a carbonated apple juice beverage.
“When it first came out, Arnold told The New York Times in 1994, “We sold 500 cases. The next month we sold 500 more cases and got some calls from distributors. ‘You’ve changed your formula,’ they said. ‘This Snapple’s tasting better and better.’
“Then one day in our warehouse the tops of the bottles started shooting off. Bang! Pop! We found it was fermenting. We’d made a Champagne.”
It was an embarrassing failure but the guys refused to give-up.
The buddies continued to pursue their concept as they worked out the problems and made tasty beverages. Eventually Snapple became one of the first firms to offer an extensive line of juices and carbonated drinks made from natural ingredients.
In the 1980’s, as the number of health conscience consumers grew dramatically, Snapple became a huge hit. In 1987, Snapple introduced bottled iced teas, and that too became very popular.
Just seven years later, Snapple’s annual sales were about $700 million and the Quaker Oats Company bought the firm for $1.7 billion, which made its three founders extremely rich. At the age of 62, Arnold retired a very wealthy man.
Today Snapple is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group and it offers a product line of over 50 flavors of juices, teas and fruit punches.
In Arnold’s personal life, his long-time first wife, the former Marilyn Parmet passed away in 1993, when Arnold was 61.
But ultimately, Arnold lived a very comfortable life and had homes in Delray, Fla., in Manhattan and Southampton, N.Y. and lived out his dreams, despite having begun with little money, little formal education and seemingly little opportunity.
When Arnold passed away on October 26th, 2012 at the age of 80 from cancer, he was survived by his second wife, the former Roberta Budoff, and his two daughters by his first marriage to Marilyn, and by three stepchildren and 14 grandchildren. A son Michael, preceded him in death.
But he is survived as well by the millions of people who enjoy and consume Snapple beverages each day and the many people that Snapple and its vendors employ.
What valuable lessons did we learn from Arnold and his two buddies?
1) When their original Snapple was a miserable failure, they didn’t quit as so many other people would have done. Instead, they learned from that failure and offered the public a far better product.
2) Many people assume if an idea is any good, others would already be doing it. But Arnold and his buddies thought that there being no other products like Snapple meant a potential market niche exclusively for them.
3) They had little formal education but they didn’t let that stop them. They learned on the job through trial and error, whereas many people never start because they don’t believe they are smart enough or have enough education to succeed. Snapple succeeded big time.