Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Honest Tea Remains True to Its Roots

Honest Tea “TeaEO” Seth Goldman highlighted the goals of a socially responsible business in Lohrfink Auditorium on Tuesday evening.

The Stanton Distinguished Leaders Series, a new speaker series that brings business leaders to campus, sponsored the event.

Goldman outlined the history of Honest Tea, which he founded with his one-time professor Barry Nalebuff in 1998. In 2003, the product became the first fair trade-certified bottled tea and was first distributed in Whole Foods after a test batch in Goldman’s kitchen.

“We weren’t able to get distribution beyond the natural food channels, so we went to the gourmet stores; we began to take up shelf space and the product was moving,” Goldman said. “The beverage distribution world is a fight for space every day. We had to make this business work for every person in our supply chain. It has to be competitive at every point; no one is going to do charity.”

Today, Honest Tea’s business encompasses three core areas: health and wellness, environmental consciousness and social responsibility.

“We are a company devoted to sustainability, to nourish and to uphold, but we operate in a contradiction between being socially conscious and operating in a consumer economy,” Goldman said.

Now, the brand makes 500,000 bottles of tea every day. However, Goldman acknowledged the challenges of getting to that point.

“We pay more for our ingredients. Fair trade is more expensive. We spend more than our competitors,” Goldman said. “We have had our share of failures. … It is part of the process, but we need to keep learning and pushing ahead.”

The company gained recent attention through the National Honesty Index, a marketing campaign that aimed to determine how honest people are by asking the public to pay $1 for a bottle of Honest Tea on the honor system, and President Obama’s professed taste for the beverage. Per The New York Times, President Obama is known to keep the White House’s refrigerators stocked with his preferred flavors of Black Forest Berry and Green Dragon.

Students and professors in attendance enjoyed Goldman’s lecture.

“What impressed me was the way he talked about the need for business to follow its passion. Being successful is making money, having decent margins and volume, while following your mission,” Catholic University of America adjunct professor in business and economics Herb Shatzen said.

Michael Saba (MSB ’15) agreed.

“I think Honest Tea has an excellent mission statement,” Saba said. “I am actually going to go buy some Honest Tea right now.”

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