Case Study Honest Tea Half And Half

  • Fair Trade Tea & Sugar

    Fair Trade Certified™ means that the certified ingredients have been cultivated in a socially and environmentally conscious manner that enables farmers to make investments directly into their businesses and communities.

  • USDA Organic

    USDA Organic regulations stipulate that crops are produced without using irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides or genetically modified organisms.

  • Kosher

    Orthodox Union Kosher Certified means every ingredient is fit or proper as it relates to kosher dietary law.

  • Gluten Free

    Gluten-free means that ingredients used contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

  • No GMOs

    "No GMOs" means that if a bioengineered version of an ingredient exists, we don't use it.

  • Recyclable

    Honest Tea encourages you to recycle your used packaging where facilities exist.

  • Real Brewed

    Our tea leaves are steeped in hot water similar to how you would at home (although in a much, much larger container!) to create a delicious brew in which the true taste of the tea leaves comes through.

  • The case study we published last week chronicled the back and forth between Honest Tea and Coca-Cola, its biggest investor. Written by Elizabeth Olson, the piece explained that Coke executives had asked Honest Tea to remove the words “no high fructose corn syrup” from its juice pouches because the executives considered them an implicit rebuke of Coke products that do contain the syrup. “We got a strong request to change the wording,” said Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea.

    In the end, Mr. Goldman held his ground, and Coke — which owns an option to buy the rest of Honest Tea next year — accepted the decision. The Honest Kids packaging now on store shelves continues to proclaim, “no high fructose corn syrup” (see the photo above). The decision, Mr. Goldman said, “shows we do stand for something.”

    In a brief interview, Mr. Goldman addressed some of the concerns raised by readers who commented on the case study:


    Have you had second thoughts about the deal with Coke?


    Absolutely not. We entered the deal with the goal of expanding the availability and the impact of our brand, and we’re making that happen in a way that we could never do on our own. We want to be the first mainstream organic beverage. No one can help us do this better than Coke. Equally important, Coke has embraced our brand, our team, and our culture — even our quirky independent streak — and we both see the same unmet demand for less-sweet beverages.


    Were you surprised by the comments from people who are angry with Honest Tea?


    Not really. There are some people who were disappointed that we partnered with Coke just because Coke seems so different from what Honest Tea represents. But I’ve challenged those folks to look at how we operate and what we are selling. Since we started working with Coke, we’ve increased our Fair Trade offerings from 4 to 19 varieties. We’ve reduced our packaging-to-product ratio (a measure of packaging efficiency) by more than 50 percent, and we’ve expanded our range of zero-calorie offerings, including a new stevia-sweetened drink we’re introducing next month. Some point to changes we’ve made over the past couple years and blame Coke. Any changes came from us.


    Was there anything in the comments that you wanted to respond to or clarify?


    We do have several unsweetened teas, and even those with sugar are only a tad sweet. We have half the sugar (and calories) of most bottled teas. One reason we can afford to use organic cane sugar is that we use so much less of it. Our Honest Kids product has less than half the sugar of most kids drinks, so there, too, we’re offering a healthier alternative. Another point worth noting is that there was never any discussion about adding high fructose corn syrup to any Honest Tea product — the discussion only focused on whether we would take the “no high fructose corn syrup” language off our package. There was a comment questioning why our bottle has a hollow cavity at the bottom and accusing us of deceptive marketing. The bottle is designed that way because it is 22 percent lighter than our original bottle, which will save more than a million pounds of plastic every year. Because the bottle is thinner, it requires more pressure to hold its form, and that’s why there’s that funky dome underneath. We’re not trying to fool anyone — honest — but sometimes our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint needs a little more explanation.


    Have you heard from Coke since the publication of the case study?


    I talked with a colleague in Atlanta today and, of course, the article came up. We agreed it’s unfortunate that the piece focused on one small road bump, when there are so many positive conversations we’ve had since the deal between Honest Tea and Coca-Cola — conversations about sourcing of organic tea, package reduction, authentic marketing, community-based environmental initiatives and Fair Trade sourcing. Like any healthy relationship, there is give and take, but up to and including the packaging language for Honest Kids, we have collaborated with Coke and haven’t made any change to our business that’s inconsistent with the brand and vision that we started out of my house more than 12 years ago. The partnership with Coke is fundamental to taking Honest Tea’s mission and impact to scale — the Honest Tea party is just getting started.

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