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Hyman Golden, 85, cofounder of Snapple

By Anahad O'Connor
New York Times News Service / September 23, 2008
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NEW YORK - Hyman Golden, a businessman who was a cofounder of the Snapple Beverage Corp. and served as its chairman as Snapple's flavored teas and juices became a national phenomenon, died Sept. 14 in Great Neck, N.Y. He was 85.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said his daughter, Sharon Golden Brenner.

With a small investment in 1972, Mr. Golden and two partners started a business that would eventually produce one of the nation's leading flavored beverages and compete with such industry stalwarts as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

By the time the company was purchased by Quaker Oats Co. for about $1.7 billion in 1994, it had annual sales of $700 million, and its bottles of juices, with their familiar blue-and-white logos, could be found in delis, supermarkets, vending machines, and homes nationwide.

Mr. Golden, who had little formal education, had a humble upbringing in Queens County, working first as a window washer for his father, a Romanian immigrant. He later worked as a business broker and founded a maintenance company with his brother-in-law, Leonard Marsh.

In 1972, Marsh introduced Mr. Golden to Arnold Greenberg, a childhood friend who ran a health food store in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The three decided to join forces and founded a company - called Unadulterated Food Products - selling juices to health food stores.

In 1980, the company introduced a line of all-natural juices with the Snapple name, which came from one of its first products, a carbonated apple juice that had a "snappy apple taste."

"When it first came out," Greenberg told The New York Times in July 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 out it was fermenting. We'd made champagne."

The company enjoyed modest success with its natural sodas in the early 1980s; when it introduced its iced tea in 1987 sales soared. Amid a nationwide rise in health consciousness, Snapple became perhaps the only ready-to-drink iced tea promoted as having natural ingredients and being made from real brewed tea. Consumers increasingly chose it over its carbonated competitors.

Besides winning appeal through its 52 fruity flavors, Snapple quickly endeared itself to Americans with an aggressive marketing campaign. Its unconventional television ads featured a wildly popular spokeswoman from Long Island, Wendy Kaufman, or Wendy the Snapple Lady, who would read letters from devoted Snapple drinkers in her distinct "New Yawk" accent while promoting the beverage as "Made from the best stuff on Earth." Snapple is now sold in 80 countries.

The company, founded in Brooklyn, eventually moved to Long Island, where Mr. Golden and his two business partners lived. The three friends cherished their product, having a level of fun with it that was reflected in its quirky flavors and reputation.

"They used to sit in their office with chemists, and they would have concentrates all over the table as they did taste tests," said Mr. Golden's daughter, Sharon. "It wasn't even work to them. It was total enjoyment and they just loved what they were doing. They had a ball with it."

Hyman Golden was born in Passaic, N.J., and grew up in Queens. He served in the Air Force, and in 1948 met his wife, Mitzi, whom he married the next year.

In the early 1990s, as Snapple was exploding in popularity, Mr. Golden served as its chairman. The company was sold several times - eventually ending up with Cadbury Schweppes, now known as the Dr Pepper Snapple Group - making the men a fortune. But Mr. Golden, who retired in 1995, always remained thankful, his daughter said.

"He accomplished the American dream," she said. "When he and his partners would get together for events and celebrations, their favorite song to sing was 'God Bless America,' because they were so appreciative."

"In their wildest dreams," she added, "they never thought that this would be the end result."

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