After years of success as the top-selling organic bottled tea in the U.S., Honest recently made its debut across the pond with three low-calorie choices for the choosiest of bottled tea drinkers: Lemon Flavored Herbal Tea with Honey, Orange and Mango Flavored Herbal Tea and Pomegranate and Blueberry Flavored Herbal Tea.
The Need for a Healthy Bottled Tea
In the late 1990s, Seth Goldman and his Yale School of Management professor, Barry Nalebuff, noticed a gap in the beverage marketplace. They found that most of the tea that went into bottled tea (in the U.S.) was tea dust and fanning, the leftover bits once whole tealeaves had been separated and sold. The result: low-quality tea that wasn’t even brewed. With the rise of consumers embracing healthy lifestyles and organic diets, the tea-loving duo began seeping a plan and a brew that, in 1998, resulted in Honest—pouring straight from Seth’s kitchen in Bethesda, Maryland.
Their passion for social responsibility and mission-driven entrepreneurship helped the company succeed. “What we’re about is connecting people to nature, offering them healthier drinks and having a positive impact on the communities we source our ingredients from,” explained Goldman.
Within 10 years, Honest had become the best-selling tea in the natural foods industry in the U.S. Sales were tallying up to $23 million, but the company needed more investment in order to scale up to the high demand. In 2007, Honest products were available in about 15,000 stores across America. The Coca-Cola Company took note of the impressive growth and invested 40% in Honest. Coca-Cola later went on to acquire the company in 2011, with Honest operating as an independent business unit. Coca-Cola’s vast resources helped the tea company become more accessible to more people. The tea expanded to more than 100,000 locations in the States and is now reaching the most discerning of tea drinkers through its launch in the United Kingdom.
Bringing the British a New Kind of Tea
Noting the significance of the market expansion, Goldman said, “This is one of those pinch-me moments. When we started brewing tea in my kitchen, we always hoped we could help shift peoples’ diets toward organic, authentic beverage recipes that taste ‘Just a Tad Sweet.’”
Each of the Honest teas contains brewed organic herbal tea, organic fruit juice concentrates and is sweetened with organic cane sugar.
“Honest taps into the fruit and herbal trends, as well as lifestyle changes we are seeing in the UK,” explained Kelly Cardamone, Coca-Cola Brand Manager for Honest. “We’re seeing a greater demand for low and no calorie drinks, and also a growing consumer trend of organic options.” Made in the UK and certified organic by the Soil Association, these teas will be the first organic drinks to be launched by Coca-Cola in the UK.
In an act of clever marketing, Coca-Cola conducted a three-week, London-based social experiment to see how “honest” city residents actually were. Unmanned displays were set up with signs that encouraged visitors to try a tea and leave £1. Participants were viewed from afar and results were compiled. “It was really fun and playful way to engage newcomers to the Honest brand,” said Cardamone. “Eighty-five percent of those who tried a bottle of Honest paid something, while only around one in seven didn’t pay at all.”