Chief Executive Peter Van Stolk told analysts in a conference call that the use of pure cane sugar - which is perceived by some consumers as a tad better than high fructose corn syrup - will help Jones "stand out from the other players in this space." He was unavailable for comment.
At the same time, Jones plans to sweeten all its bottled soft drinks with cane sugar. But the cane sugar might not be a point of distinction for too long.
"There are a number of companies now experimenting or beginning to use pure-cane sugar," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
He says Cadbury-Schweppes just began a test in the Midwest using cane sugar in Dr Pepper. And he notes that PepsiCo plans to introduce a "Pepsi Natural" version later this year using cane sugar.
"Companies are always looking for ways to differentiate their products and attract new consumer attention," Sicher said.
The canned sodas come in various flavors such as green apple and lemon drop. "Their flavors are different, so they have a good opportunity to compete with the other colas," Maher said.
Still, it's too early to draw conclusions since the rollout is not yet complete. "That's the piece of the puzzle that has yet to be demonstrated," Maher said.
To help get the word out, Jones is launching its first TV ad campaign this spring, touting its "better soda."
The company has no intention of phasing out its hallmark long-neck glass bottles, which feature photo labels submitted by customers. But it recently expanded into plastic bottles with a noncarbonated multivitamin enhanced drink called 24C. A broad launch is set for the second quarter.
"There's no doubt Jones is becoming mainstream, but in a premium sense," said Piper Jaffray analyst Nicole Miller. While the new canned soda program is a big deal for Jones, it's not "the end game," she says.
"The reason this model works is because it's a portfolio of branded products. We expect product extensions and new product launches over time," Miller said.
Jones Soda's drink portfolio also includes organic teas, natural juices and a Whoop Ass-branded energy drink. The firm licenses its name for a line of hard candies sold by Big Sky Brands.