Seth Goldman Resigns and Honest Tea Relocates

Seth Goldman (Photo courtesy of Honest Tea)

Coca-Colaowned Honest Tea will relocate from Bethesda, Mary., to corporate headquartersin Atlanta following Seth Goldman’s recently announced resignation.

Coca-Colasaid the move “allows us to fully integrate the Honest business into thecompany’s portfolio, as well as strengthen collaboration among the team andincrease opportunities for career development for these associates.” Honest Teawill be relocated to new offices by the end of January 2020, according to acompany press release. Honest Tea employs nine. The statement said “most roles”will move.

Theannouncements are related. The move did not trigger Goldman’s decision, heexplained. Goldman founded the company in 1998 with his Yale business schoolprofessor and friend Barry Nalebuff. Instead, he told Washington BusinessJournal that his decision to move on “probably gave lessof a reason to have the team based in Bethesda.”

“I’vechaperoned Honest Tea, 21 ½ years after I launched the brand out of my home and11 ½ years since Coca-Cola became an investor, and then owner of the brand,” wrote Goldman whowas named TeaEO Emeritus in 2015. Coca-Cola invested $43 million for a 40%stake in the company and later purchased the firm in 2011. Goldman initially managedthe company and continued to advise operations. He was a visible spokesman, TEDspeaker and author of Mission in a Bottle, a 2013 bookdescribing the venture’s lofty “guide to doing business differently – andsucceeding.”

“In2015 I was fortunate to create an arrangement where I was able to spend half mytime with Honest Tea and the other half of my time as executive chair of BeyondMeat,” Goldman explained. “At the end of 2019, I will step away entirely frommy employment with The Coca-Cola Company and cheer on Honest Tea from thesidelines,” he said.

(Photo courtesy of Honest Tea)

Goldmanreminisced about the progress of the “freshly brewed and barely sweetened”bottled tea that he co-founded with Nalebuff who is the Milton Steinbach Professor Economics and Management at YaleSchool of Management. The firm was quickly accepted as alternate toheavily sweetened teas reconstituted from tea powder. The firm generated firstyear sales of $250,000 supplying  17Whole Foods stores in 1998. Soon after, Whole Foods stocked the brandnationally. Today the brand is carried in more than 140,000 U.S. outlets, withthousands more in Europe and Asia, he said.

HonestTea and its related lemonades, juices and kid’s drinks earned $600 million lastyear. In September the brand launched Honest Coffee, a cold brew.

“The inclusion ofour 35 calorie juice drink on McDonald’s menus in place of the 80 calorie drinkthat was there before has resulted in the removal of more than a billioncalories a year from the American diet,” wrote Goldman. 

“Ourorganic purchases have grown from 800,000 pounds to more than 8 million poundslast year,” he wrote. Trade premium contributions to our supplier communitieshave exceeded more than $500,000 over the past few years, money that has beenused to build schools, hospitals and clean water systems, according to Goldman.

Goldman plans to remain in Bethesda,overseeing Beyond Meat as executive chairman. On a recent earnings call Goldmansaid, “After 10 years of aggressivelyinvesting in our science and product innovation, this is the first quarter wehave generated net income. It is a wonderful validation from consumers whosupport our business strategy of building meat directly from plants and chooseBeyond Meat for its superior taste and texture while enjoying the nutritionaland environmental benefits of eating our plant-based meat products. It alsohighlights our ability to generate strong expense leverage as we increasinglyscale our operations, both in the U.S.”

A serial entrepreneur, Goldmanjoked in his farewell blog that his position as executive chair by design isnot full time, “So that leaves another half of my workload to fill – or as mywife once put it, 75% of my time on Beyond Meat and 75% of my time on anotherenterprise. No announcements yet, but I am developing plans for the next phaseof my journey. Stay tuned.”

Source: Honest Tea, SethGoldman Blog, WashingtonBusiness Journal, BeyondMeat