Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea, drank a lot of liquids. An active person, Seth was continually in search of the perfect drink to quench his thirst after a run, a game of basketball or between grad school classes. Yet, Seth found most drinks either too sweet or too tasteless.
Barry Nalebuff, Seth's professor at the Yale School of Management, found that he and Seth shared a passion for the idea of a less sweet, but flavorful beverage during a class discussion of a Coke vs. Pepsi case study. They agreed that there were tons of sugary sweet options and lots of watery drinks, but in 1994, there was nothing in between to fill the void.
Fast forward to '97. Seth goes for a run in New York City with college friend who used to concoct juice drinks with him after class. As they found themselves doing the same beverage mixing after the run, Seth knew then that if he was going to quench his thirst for good, he would have to create the drink himself. He e-mailed Barry to see if he was still excited about the idea.
Seth and BarryTiming was everything. Barry had just returned from India where he had been analyzing the tea industry for a case study. Among other things, he learned that most of the tea American companies purchased for bottling was the lower quality dust and fannings left after quality tea had been produced. Barry had even come up with a name to describe a bottled tea that was made with real tea leaves--Honest Tea. When Seth heard the name, the simmering idea began to boil--it was the perfect name for an all-natural brand that would strive to create healthy and honest relationships with its customers, suppliers and the environment.
Seth took a deep breath, quit his job at Calvert mutual funds, and started brewing batches of tea in his kitchen. Five weeks after taking the plunge, he brought thermoses of tea and a recycled bottle with a mock-up label to Fresh Fields (Whole Foods Markets). The buyer ordered 15,000 bottles, and Seth and Barry were in business--if they could figure out how to make that much tea. They did, and we're still at it 15 years later.
In March 2011, The Coca-Cola Company purchased Honest Tea after an initial 40% investment in 2008, which helped expand the distribution of HONEST beverages. Today, Honest Tea is run as an independent business unit and our HONEST TEA, HONEST ADE, HONEST KIDS, HONEST SPLASH, and HONEST Fizz beverages can be found in more than 100,000 stores across United States. The dream that took root in Seth's kitchen in 1998 became a company that just celebrated its 15th anniversary. Seth continues to run the business as the President and TeaEO in Bethesda, MD with the same passion towards health, the environment and social-responsibility.
At Honest Tea, we embrace the simplicity of tea – water and leaves. Ever since 2730 B.C. when the Chinese emperor Shen Nung first "discovered" tea after some leaves fell into a pot of boiling water, tea has been the world's second most popular drink (behind water). For generations, cultures around the world have enjoyed tea grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers and we don't see any reason to include them in our recipes today.
Our goal is to create a product in which the true taste of the leaves comes through. We don't pulverize, process, or concentrate our tea leaves. Instead we brew the whole leaf, a way that Shen Nung would still recognize. From our unsweetened Just Green and Just Black Teas (no calories, no sugar), to our "just a tad sweet" drinks (100 calories or less), Honest Tea makes it easier for people to enjoy lower calorie refreshment.
We strive to live up to our name in the way we conduct our business. We do this whether we are working with growers and suppliers, answering consumer questions or trying to leave a lighter environmental footprint. In addition to being ranked by The Huffington Post as one of the leading "8 Revolutionary Socially Responsible Companies" in 2010, Honest Tea is a multi-year winner of awards from the Alliance for Workplace Excellence. The third-annual Keeping it Honest Mission Report was released in 2012, documenting the ways we strive to live up to our mission and the efforts we undertake to keep sustainability a focus in our business.
At Honest Tea, we believe in creating partnerships with like-minded organizations to support causes close to Honest Tea's mission. Here are a few examples:
In 2003, we launched the first Fair Trade Certified bottled tea, and increased our fair trade offerings each year. In 2011, we converted all of our remaining teas to Fair Trade Certified, helping to ensure that workers on tea gardens receive a fair share of profits, and that the tea gardens comply with specific workplace criteria for equality and fairness. Since 2003, we have contributed over $350,000 in fair trade premiums, reinvesting in communities where our tea is sourced.
Honest Tea has been a long-time supporter of cancer research through both financial donations as well as in-kind product donations. In 2012 we reviewed our policies and decided to split our donation between Susan G. Komen For the Cure as well as the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Honest Tea created a partnership with Green America (formally known as Coop America) when we launched the business in 1998. We support Green America's mission to harness economic power to create an environmentally and socially sustainable society. Since 2005, Honest Tea has provided financial and in-kind donations to their annual Green Festivals across the U.S.
Net Impact harnesses the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. Since Honest Tea was founded in 1998, each year we have hired at least one summer intern from Net Impact to join our team and continue exploring how business and sustainably can work together.
When we launched Honest Kids in 2007, we were faced with a packaging dilemma – widely recyclable aseptic drink pouches did not exist and still do not. We partnered with TerraCycle to launch the Honest Kids Drink Pouch Brigade as a way to divert drink pouches from landfills. Since then, the program has expanded to include pouches, containers, and packaging from other companies as well. For each pouch collected, TerraCycle donates up to $0.03 per pouch to a school or organization, and since 2007 has collected more than 155 million used drink pouches.
The Arbor Day Foundation and Honest Tea have had an on-going partnership. In 2011, we launched a special tree-planting program for the Honest Kids line and changed the Honest Kids packaging design to promote this "eco-mission." A message on the back of the carton directed consumers (age 13 and up with the help of their parents) to a website where, after taking a quiz, they could virtually "plant" their tree. 50,000 trees were planted in the US by the end of the promotion, which was five times the number of trees we planted in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation in 2010.
When Seth and Barry started Honest Tea in 1998, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) had already been around for almost 15 years. Our relationship with OTA kicked off in 1999 when we created First Nation Peppermint, the world's first organic bottled tea. The OTA is the voice of the organic business community in the U.S. and Canada, working to protect the consumer, farmers and the environment. Most of the members are small businesses – just like Honest Tea was fifteen years ago.
City Year is a nonprofit wholly focused on fighting the national dropout crisis. By leveraging the talent, energy and idealism of its corps members to serve as tutors, mentors and role models in schools, they aim to help students stay on track—and get back on track—to graduate. One of Honest Tea's earliest varieties, Community Green, bears the City Year logo as a way to show support for one of our longstanding partners.