OP: What other sustainability efforts are you involved in? Do you think that
Coke will support these types of sustainability efforts as you move forward?
on using high fructose corn syrup or
swap out organic or fair trade ingredi-
ents for something cheaper?
Goldman: They already are. As an example, we’ve created this local initiative
called “Bethesda Green” where we got restaurants to convert to bio-diesel and
put in recycling bins. Coca-Cola was really one of the first investors in this effort
and they helped purchase 20 recycling bins in the downtown area.
“The best way to protect
the integrity of the product is
to build value around the
core elements of the brand.” On a wider scale, we’ve always had t”he desire to do more to improve the sustainability of our bottles, whether it’s light-weighting or increasing recycled content, but we haven’t had the scale or the purchasing power to do so. Now with
Coke behind us, vendors take us much more seriously.
We are also working with Terracycle on a project where kids save their Honest Kids drink pouches and can send them to us to be recycled into pencil cases
or other bags. It’s something we’re excited about and now other companies like
Kraft are hearing about it and want to get involved. So I said sure—right now
Honest Kids is only selling a few million pouches and Kraft is selling billions, so,
if we get them on board, we can really change the waste stream. However, as satisfying as it was to create a model that inspired someone else, there was a little
bit of me that said, “Man, I want to be the one that helps change the waste
stream, not just modeling it so others can do it.” And now that Honest Kids is
going to be tapping into Coke’s Minute Maid distribution system, we believe we
will be able to make even more of an impact ourselves.
Goldman: The best way to protect the
integrity of the product is to build
value around the core elements of the
brand. Our brand is committed to organic, healthier and authentic products and if we build value around that
now, Coke of all companies will appreciate that value. They’re the ones who
learned the painful lesson of what happens when you toy with success. The
whole New Coke fiasco is like a scar.
Our values are built into the brand,
into the actual ingredients of the product. Organic, fair trade and healthy
are pillars of the product and it would
not be Honest Tea without these elements. We’re not a company where
our values are shown by what we give
away in profits. It’s really about the
product we’re selling; how we make it
and how we communicate that value
to the consumer.
Regarding organic, in addition to
the message we have on our bottles, we
will be having a sampling team at all of
our market launches to educate people about the value of organic. One of
the most compelling rationales for or-
OP: You have been reported as saying that “Coke is not acquiring the company,
it’s merely investing in it,” and that your team will remain in control from a
board governance perspective. What measures are you taking to ensure this?
Goldman: On our board we have myself, my co-founder Barry Nalebuff, Gary
Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm, and then two members from Coca-Cola. So with
the assumption that Gary is going to lean toward the organic-mission-oriented
side of the brand, if there were to be a vote where the mission is the question,
we’re confident we would have a majority. But, we haven’t had any situations
like that, and I certainly don’t anticipate that kind of thing arising.
What really is important is that all of our employees continue to have an
ownership interest in the company. We made it part of the deal that when Coke
invested our employees would be able to invest alongside them, on the same
terms, at the same valuation. That certainly made everyone feel empowered.
We made sure to expand the employee ownership so that they actually increased their share in the company as a result.
OP: So you are pretty sure that Coke isn’t going to one day just decide to insist
Honest incorporated hybrids to shrink their carbon footprint.
ganic tea is really quite simple: tea is
one of the few agricultural products
that isn’t rinsed. If you buy a conventional tomato or apple, you take it
home, you rinse it, wash it and at least
you’ll get the surface chemicals off.
With tea, the tea leaves are never
rinsed. They’re picked, dried and the
only time the chemicals are washed off
is when hot water is poured on leaves
to brew the tea. So clearly organic tea,