Juice Maker Still Jogging Along

Danny McWilliams displays bottles of Jogging in a Jug that has been produced by Third Option Labs for 20 years.

Danny McWilliams displays bottles of Jogging in a Jug that has been produced by Third Option Labs for 20 years.

MUSCLE SHOALS – When Jack McWilliams began marketing his mixture of apple and grape juices and cider vinegar that he called Jogging in a Jug on Jan. 7, 1990, he was unsure if the drink would catch on with consumers

“When we first started, we were afraid we might be out of business in two or three months, but here we are 20 years later and still going strong,” said McWilliams, a retired farmer from Cherokee.

His grandson, Danny B. McWilliams Jr., chief executive officer of the Muscle Shoals-based Third Option Laboratories, which markets Jogging in a Jug, said the beverage has a strong following in the Southeast and is now developing a large customer base in the Northeast.

“We’ve picked up some food distributors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland the past few years and are shipping a lot of product there,” Danny McWilliams said. “We ship Jogging in a Jug to customers all over the country through our mail-order business.”

More than 35 million 64-ounce bottles of the beverage have been sold during the past 20 years. Jogging in a Jug is blended and bottled in North Carolina using McWilliams’ original formula. He developed it as a way to increase the amount of vinegar in his diet in hopes of improving his health.

Danny McWilliams Jr. is especially proud of the strong sales for Jogging in a Jog around northwest Alabama.

“Daddy always said if we were not accepted here at home, we would never be accepted anywhere,” he said. “He was always proud of the number of loyal customers we had here in the Shoals.”

He credits his father, Danny McWilliams Sr., who died in 2000, for having the marketing savvy to develop a following of customers throughout the United States.

“Daddy was the lifeblood of this company,” he said. “He’s still a big part of our company. There’s not a business decision I make today that I don’t think of what decision daddy would have made in the same situation.”

While the family-run business is thriving now, Jack McWilliams said there have been some tough times for the Jogging in a Jug brand.

In 1995, the company settled a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission that required a disclaimer be placed on Jogging in a Jug containers and advertisements stating the product offers no proven health benefits.

Jack McWilliams said sales plummeted after the settlement, but have picked up steadily ever since.

“The government set out to get us because we were the underdog, but we survived; we’ve come back really strong,” he said.

Danny McWilliams Jr. said the brand surviving 20 years indicates the loyalty of Jogging in a Jug customers to the product. “A lot of businesses have come and gone in the past 20 years, but we’re still here and doing fine.”

Dennis Sherer can be reached at 740-5746 or dennis.sherer@TimesDaily.com.

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