From Honest to Just: How Coca-Cola’s Fumble With Honest Tea Turned Into an Unexpected Gift

May 6, 2024 10:00 AM ET

by Seth Goldman, co-founder of Eat The Change and Just Ice Tea

Two years ago this month I was informed by senior leaders from The Coca-Cola Company (KO) that Honest Tea, the brand I launched out of my house in 1998, would be discontinued. Despite the brand’s success as the world’s first organic and Fair Trade certified bottled tea brand, supply chain disruptions during the pandemic made Honest Tea a victim of Coke’s “Fewer, Bigger Bets” strategy.

But what felt like a huge setback turned out to be a gift, and an interesting lesson in the challenges big corporations have in scaling mission-driven brands.

Within ten days of hearing the news about Honest Tea’s demise, our sense of loss morphed into a determination that Honest Tea’s organic and Fair Trade values were too important – to our farmers (most of whom found out about Honest Tea’s termination from my LinkedIn post) and our customers, to be allowed to disappear. But the biggest piece of inspiration came via an email I received from one of our longtime tea suppliers:

"I am just hearing the news and reading your note on LinkedIn. The story of Honest Tea is very connected to our own, our company, and the gardens and people with whom we work at origin, so the news is definitely a “gut punch,” for us as well. For my father and myself, while the financial consequences are material, the loss of confidence in Organic and Fair Trade agriculture that this decision is likely to engender in the wider community is very saddening and probably more consequential over the long term – especially in terms of lost motivation at origins. We have been so inspired to be part of the journey that you led, and want to try to continue the effort (and fight the suggestion that this was all a failed experiment)."

Find out how Seth and his team moved into action to launch a new rapidly growing brand. Read the article here -