Why We May Not Have Seen The Last Of Honest Tea

When Coca-Cola announced it was shutting down its line of Honest Tea, no one was more shocked than the brand's founder, Seth Goldman, who founded Honest Tea in 1998. Goldman sold 40% of the brand to the soft-drink maker in 2008, before he and business partner Barry Nalebuff sold off the rest of the enterprise in 2011. Just after Coca-Cola's decision to do away with Honest Tea was announced, Goldman had taken to Linkedin to call the move "a gut punch to all the sweat, tears and incredible passion that went into building our beloved brand."

Goldman tells Food Dive during an interview that "It was obviously disappointing to see how a large corporation handled this. I did not anticipate it at all. We had developed and the brand had maintained ... the category-leading position in ready-to-drink bottled tea. And they were willing to just walk away from that."

And while this may seem like unfortunate news for Goldman and Honest Tea drinkers, it could be the beginning of something even better.

There is still a market for a product like Honest Tea

Goldman said that his Linkedin post triggered discussions with interested parties and different stakeholders, which had made him realize there was still room in the market for a product that stood for all the same things that Honest Tea did (per Insider). Stating that Honest Tea is a "less sweet, less caloric, authentic drink" on his Linkedin post, and adding that "It has helped remove billions of empty calories from the American diet," Goldman says he will now build upon those qualities. 

But, per Food Dive, Goldman decided that instead of handing off the idea, he's decided to execute it himself, since most of his original employees have joined him at his current venture, Eat the Change. Furthermore, he still has relationships he had built up and nurtured during his time at the helm of Honest Tea. To launch his new drink, which has yet to be named, Goldman will be working with Spike Mendelson and former Honest Tea partner Barry Nalebuff. The new tea is expected to hit retail stores at the end of the year and when that happens, the new label will potentially be competing against Honest Tea's Coca-Cola siblings Gold Peak, Pure Leaf, and Tazo. 

There is an embarrassment of riches for brands that can succeed. Statista says the ready-to-drink tea market was worth $21 billion in the U.S. in 2018 — and its value could reach up to $29.7 billion by 2024.