NEW YORK — Arnold Greenberg, who began selling pickles and herring from a New York City storefront and went on to become a founder of Snapple, the international beverage giant, died Oct. 26 in Manhattan. He was 80.
A resident of Delray Beach, Fla., who also had homes in Manhattan and Southampton, N.Y., Mr. Greenberg had been ill with cancer for some time.
In 1972, Mr. Greenberg, who ran a health food store in Manhattan’s East Village, joined forces with two old friends, Leonard Marsh and Hyman Golden, to sell fruit juices to health food stores. A part-time concern — Mr. Greenberg retained his store and Marsh and Golden kept the window-washing business they ran — the juice business performed modestly.
Then, in the late 1970s, the three men hit on the idea of producing a soft drink flavored 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 bottle 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.
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 ’80s; 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.
The company also became known for its offbeat advertising. An early 1990s campaign was built around television spots featuring the Snapple Lady. A motherly character played by an employee, Wendy Kaufman, the Snapple Lady answered customers’ letters.
By 1994, when Snapple was bought for $1.7 billion by the Quaker Oats Co., it had annual sales of about $700 million.
Mr. Greenberg, Snapple’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, retired after the sale. Snapple is now owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, based in Plano, Texas.
Arnold Shepard Greenberg was born in Brooklyn. His father owned an appetizing store in the East Village selling lox, herring, and pickles; by the 1950s, Arnold Greenberg ran it.
By the 1960s, with the Village becoming decreasingly Jewish and increasingly hippie, Mr. Greenberg converted the business to a health food store. In the early ’70s he went into business with Marsh, a childhood friend, and Golden, who was married to Marsh’s sister.
When the three men coined the name Snapple, they discovered it was already owned by a small company in Texas, which appeared to have little interest in using it. They bought the name for $500.
Mr. Greenberg’s first wife, the former Marilyn Parmet, died in 1993; a son, Michael, also died before him. He leaves his wife, the former Roberta Budoff; two daughters from his first marriage, Susan Minster and Robin Nijankin; a brother, Herbert; three stepchildren; and 14 grandchildren.