What Seth Goldman Really Thinks About Coca-Cola Ditching Honest Tea - Exclusive

In the spring of 2022, Coca-Cola announced it would be discontinuing its Honest Tea brand to focus on some of its other teas. The decision came as a surprise to original Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman, but that surprise turned into inspiration, as can be seen in Goldman's recent exclusive interview with Mashed, during which he told us about his new tea line, which launched in September 2022, Just Ice Tea.

According to Goldman, "When I learned that Honest Tea was being discontinued, my first reaction was shock and sadness and disappointment. I took a lot of those feelings and put them into a LinkedIn post that received this amazing response — over a million views and thousands of comments and responses. That helped me realize that what we had built with Honest Tea meant a lot to a lot of people, including our suppliers. Some were just going to be sad to miss the tea, but some were going to be economically impacted, like our tea garden suppliers and our other partners."

At that point, Goldman says he was approached by a range of people posing that they start a tea brand with Goldman as the face, but, he realized he already had a dream team of people who had been involved with Honest Tea previously, and so he set about raising funds for, and then launching, the new Just Ice Tea.

Filling Honest Tea's void

But filling the void that Coca-Cola created by discontinuing Honest Tea will be easier said than done, especially considering the volume at which Coca-Cola was distributing the beverages. Still, that's Seth Goldman's goal for the future. He said, "We'll be working hard to make that the case. We're working very much with the same [tea] gardens, and some new gardens as well."

That void that Just Ice Tea aims to fill isn't just on the consumer side, though. There's also a void on the agricultural producer side, as Goldman explained: "Our suppliers were really shaken [by Honest Tea's departure]. As I said, we were super disappointed about the news, but I got this email from one of our main suppliers. He was — more than upset — concerned about their livelihoods. They made these decisions to invest in this approach, so it was a real blow to them. It wasn't just about the economic impact, though that was true, but it's also this perception that if this big company, Coca-Cola, moves away from this, does that undermine what we'd be doing? Does that say that big companies aren't going to embrace this approach?"

For Goldman, the demand for organic tea is still strong, regardless of Coca-Cola's decisions and that's what, in part, drives his confidence in this new venture. He said, "It isn't like the category has been abandoned by consumers; it's just the case that a big company looked at numbers and impact in a different way, and according to its calculations, it didn't make sense to keep going with this brand. Obviously, we don't agree with that thesis."

Just Ice Tea is now available at select retail locations nationwide.