We Were Thirsty

Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea, drank a lot of liquids. An active person, Seth was continually in search of the perfect drink to quench his thirst after a run, a game of basketball, or between grad school classes. Yet, Seth found most drinks either too sweet or too tasteless.

Barry Nalebuff, Seth’s professor at the Yale School of Management, found that he and Seth shared a passion for the idea of a less sweet, but flavorful beverage during a class discussion of a Coke vs. Pepsi case study. They agreed that there were tons of sweet options and lots of watery drinks, but in 1994, there was nothing in between to fill the void.

Fast forward to 1997. Seth goes for a run in New York City with a college friend who used to concoct juice drinks with him after class. As they found themselves doing the same beverage mixing after the run, Seth knew then that if he was going to quench his thirst for good, he would have to create the drink himself. He e-mailed Barry to see if he was still excited about the idea.

Timing was everything. Barry had just returned from India where he had been analyzing the tea industry for a case study. Barry had even come up with a name to describe a bottled tea that was made with real tea leaves–Honest Tea. When Seth heard the name, the simmering idea began to boil–it was the perfect name for a brand that would strive to create honest relationships with its customers, suppliers and the environment.

Seth took a deep breath, quit his job at Calvert Mutual Funds, and started brewing batches of tea in his kitchen. Five weeks after taking the plunge, he brought thermoses of tea and a recycled bottle with a mock-up label to Fresh Fields (Whole Foods Market). The buyer ordered 15,000 bottles, and Seth and Barry were in business–if they could figure out how to make that much tea. They did, and we’re still at it 19 years later.

In March 2011, The Coca-Cola Company purchased Honest Tea after an initial 40% investment in 2008, which helped expand the distribution of Honest® beverages. Our Honest® Teas, Honest Kids®, Honest® Fizz, Honest ® Summer Refreshers, and Honest® Freshly Brewed iced teas can be found in more than 100,000 stores across United States. The dream that took root in Seth’s kitchen in 1998 became a company that just celebrated its 19th anniversary. Seth continues to run the business as the Co-Founder and TeaEO Emeritus and there are passionate teams in both Bethesda, MD and Atlanta, GA–as well as across the country and around the world–working together to grow the brand.

Seth Goldman

Co-Founder and TeaEO Emeritus

Seth Goldman co-founded Honest Tea out of his home in 1998 with Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management. Today, Honest Tea is the nation’s top selling organic bottled tea, and is carried in more than 100,000 outlets. Under Seth’s leadership, Honest Tea has developed innovative partnerships with its organic and Fair Trade Certified™ suppliers. Seth graduated from Harvard College (1987) and the Yale School of Management (1995), and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Seth and Barry are the authors of the New York Times bestseller Mission in a Bottle, a business book told in comic book form, which was published in September 2013.

 

To watch Seth’s TEDx talk about how entrepreneurs can change society click here.

 

Barry Nalebuff

Co-Founder

Barry Nalebuff is the Milton Steinbach Professor of Economics and Management at Yale School of Management. A graduate of MIT, a Rhodes Scholar and Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, Nalebuff earned his doctorate at Oxford University. In addition to his work with Honest Tea, Professor Nalebuff also serves on the board of Nationwide Insurance. He and Seth met in 1995 when Seth was a student in one of Barry’s classes. An expert on game theory, Barry has written extensively on its application to business strategy. He is the co-author of Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life, the first popular book on game theory, and one used in classrooms worldwide. In his second book, Co-opetition, Nalebuff applies game theory to business strategy, with an emphasis on creating and capturing value. Problem solving and ingenuity is the topic of his third book, Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small. The Art of Strategy is his updated view on game theory and Lifecycle Investing provides a new approach to saving and investing for retirement. His most recent book, Mission in a Bottle, is written with Seth. In graphic format, the book tells the story of Honest Tea and provides strategic advice for entrepreneurs.

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