Alicia's Food For Thought

Honest Tea

Hi readers,

Even though I kind of have this thing against juice (reasons that will be explained in a different post), I do enjoy my Orange Mango with Mangosteen (MANGOSTEEN!) Honest Ade with my lunch every once in a while. So today in my Social Entrepreneurship class I was surprised when we talked about how Honest Tea is an example of a social responsible business!

According to their website, this is their Mission:

Honest Tea creates and promotes delicious, truly healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow with the same honesty we use to craft our products, with sustainability and great taste for all.


We will never claim to be a perfect company, but we will address difficult issues and strive to be honest about our ability or inability to resolve them. We will strive to work with our suppliers to promote higher standards. We value diversity in the workplace and intend to become a visible presence in the communities where our products are sold. When presented with a purchasing decision between two financially comparable alternatives, we will attempt to choose the option that better addresses the needs of economically disadvantaged communities.

A commitment to social responsibility is central to Honest Tea’s identity and purpose. The company strives for authenticity, integrity and purity, in our products and in the way we do business. In addition to creating a healthy alternative beverage with a lot less sugar than most bottled drinks, Honest Tea seeks to create honest relationships with our employees, suppliers, customers and with the communities in which we do business.

Honest Tea is made with real tea leaves, unlike most brands which use powder or syrup.
Honest Tea is all-natural and uses organic ingredients.
Honest Tea is lightly sweetened, so it actually tastes like tea.
Honest Tea seeks to create healthy and honest relationships with its suppliers, customers and the environment.

I also love how they have a Kids Pouch version to respond to the child obesity epidemic I have talked about before in this post.

I really suggest you read about the story/history behind Honest Tea, and how they were able to become successful. Basically, this type of business model gets me really excited about the potential of how you can make a successful business without compromising quality and having social responsibility be integral to the brand of the product. But some news came out earlier this year that Coca-Cola bought 40% of Honest Tea. So is this business model not only successful but also sustainable and able to compete with the big companies? Or does it even matter if Honest Tea becomes a part of Coca-Cola in the grander scheme of things?

In a Triple Pundit article about the Honest Tea’s President and “TeaEO” Seth Goldman address at the 2009 Net Impact Conference.

During the keynote, (shared with business leaders from CSR Wire, Vermont Bread Company and Ben & Jerry’s,) Goldman shared a story about how during the 2008 election, people from Obama’s campaign called him to see where they could find some Honest Tea somewhere in the midwest.  Goldman said that, unfortunately, he only had one store that carried his product in the region.  Clearly, something needed to change.
Enter Coca Cola.  Earlier last year, the multinational corporation acquired a large stake in Honest Tea’s company share.  Many were put off by this partnership, including New York University, who had banned all Coca Cola-related drinks (including Honest Tea) to protest the company’s human rights record.  Goldman lamented NYU’s decision because Honest Tea has a clean record.
With the Coca Cola partnership, Goldman had to eliminate his independent distributors in favor of Coke’s.  He defended that decision on the grounds that now more people will have access to a healthy drink.
“We’re making a great product, but if people can’t get it, that’s a problem.  Now with Coca Cola as our distributor, we’re making the product more available and we’re able to reach people that we’ve never been able to get before,” Goldman said.
Plus, Honest Tea can now teach Coca Cola a thing or two about sustainablity.  For example, Honest Tea bottles now have 22% less plastic than before, and according to Goldman, Coca Cola now wants to learn more about making more light-weight bottles.  So, can it be true that Coca Cola is now taking Honest Tea’s lead in reducing plastic content in its bottles?

So did Seth sell-out to Coca-Cola? Or is he really using this as an opportunity to expand his brand? I guess that is the sacrifice you need to make. You can’t ignore the fact that there are really large companies that have global access that smaller companies aren’t able to have. I personally think that this is a smart move on Seth’s part to stay relevant and to gain momentum into his brand and product. I don’t know how successful he is going to be in influencing the brand of Coca-Cola later on (we will have to wait and see). But I do find it interesting that the Coca-Cola company found Honest Tea as a worthy investment, and maybe this is a shift that we are seeing. We consumers, are able to have an affect on what is put on the shelves of our grocery stores if we demand the right and “honest” products. In this day and age, it is really important to remember that all these products are a service to us, and our feedback to these companies is priceless because our buying habits tells them what we value in a product.

I also wonder how NYU students will respond to the fact that Honest Tea will not be allowed to be sold on campus, but Honest Tea has been… “honest” all along. Personally, as an NYU student, I think there are many other social issues we can address other than Coca-Cola. I mean, honestly, have you seen the food we sell on campus in general? I don’t think we should single out Coca-Cola as being the only human rights “enemy” when there are many companies that violate other human rights all around.

Just as a side note, here is a picture of my friends and me at Fashion Week during our freshmen year at NYU (2008). They were giving out free Honest Ade and asked if they could take a picture of us to put on their website:

*Please excuse how fat Alyssa and I look… we are the epitome of the Freshmen 15 here (I hate dining hall food!). Thank god we lost the weight during sophomore year.

Anyways, please leave me a comment if you know any other successful social responsible companies. These stories really give me hope that we can change our eating/consumer habits and that food can just just be something to sustain us individually, but food can become a way for us to make social changes.

Thanks for reading and hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

YOU ARE AGAINST JUICE?! SINCE WHEN? I think we’re going to have to talk about this… I love juice :(

Comment by Cheryl

Interesting & I don’t like juice either. I did when I was a kid, but it is sugary and dumb to drink. If you want orange juice, have a glass of water and an actual orange. A lot of people disagree with me though, whatever.

Comment by misconceptionoftheoyster

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