Honest Tea CEO: 'I had no beverage experience, but I was thirsty'

Dive Brief:

  • Seth Goldman, the co-founder and CEO of Honest Tea, spoke on a sustainability panel Thursday and discussed the early days of his company. "I had no beverage experience, but I was thirsty," he said. 
  • Coca-Cola purchased Honest Tea in 2011 after already owning a 40% stake in the company.
  • The panel took place at The Atlantic's Food Summit in Washington, DC which included a variety of panels on topics like food nutrition in schools, sustainability, and dietary science and the media.

Dive Insight:

Goldman told Food Dive that lower-calorie drinks and supply chain transparency are two of the biggest beverage industry trends. He said that consumers are, however, shifting away from what's billed as diet. The word "diet" is often associated with sacrifice, and consumers are also concerned about diet drink ingredients, he said.

Tea is the second-most popular beverage in the world; water is No. 1, according to Goldman. Honest Tea has grown rapidly, as has the overall RTD tea market. Last year, it reached $5.3 billion in U.S. sales — a 3.7% U.S. growth rate — and $50 billion in sales across the world.

"We did do a package evolution update, and I think that's certainly helped [with growth]," he said. Increased consumer awareness also helps, evident by the company's foray into restaurants — particularly Wendy's, which started selling the company's brewed tea in April and Honest Kids in September.

As for the company working with Coca-Cola, he said "it's been a build." The foodservice placement speaks to the largescale benefit of its Coca-Cola backing.

He said the key for beverage startups today is to create a product that is different enough and one that's aligned with what consumers want. 

Internationally, Honest Tea launched this month in Germany and has also been in the United Arab Emirates and Korea.

Filed Under: Beverages
Top image credit: David Oliver