Seth Goldman co-founded the Honest Tea brand with his business school professor, Barry Nalebuff. The two realized they shared in interest in flavorful, yet less sugary, beverages while the class discussed the Coke vs. Pepsi debate. In 1997, Goldman and Nalebuff revised the idea after Nalebuff returned from India where he was working on a case study for the tea industry. He’d come up with the name Honest Tea for a company that bottled tea made from real tea leaves. Goldman loved the name and quit his job to begin brewing Honest Tea.
Goldman started experimenting in his kitchen, bringing samples of the tea in thermoses along with a mock-up of the label to Fresh Fields, an organic grocer that would later become Whole Foods only five short weeks after starting with the brewing experimentation. At that fortuitous meeting, he got an order for fifteen thousand bottles of Honest Tea. The brand hit stores in June of 1998 and the company made $250,000 in sales in only seven months.
Over the years, the company has expanded to provide a variety of tea flavors, all organic, ranging from unsweetened to a tad sweet. Honest also produces tea bags, lemon and limeades, as well as a line of organic low-sugar drinks for kids. The company prides itself on using only the finest organic ingredients, and refuses to use high fructose corn syrup in its products. Honest bottles their beverages in glass bottles, and PET plastic bottles, along with individual pouches and sixty-four-ounce bottles of the kids’s drinks.
The company’s sales topped $71.5 million in 2010 and they were listed on Inc.’s list of 500 fastest-growing private companies in 2004. In 2008 the Coca-Cola Company purchased forty percent of the company, which opened up new distribution options worldwide.