Before our three sons graduated from high school, I was our family’s lead “culinary director” for breakfast and lunch, which usually meant cereal and milk in the morning and PB&J in a lunch bag along with a drink and a snack. (In other words, my wife was doing all of the real cooking)
But it wasn’t until 2006 when our middle son, Elie, was 12 years old that I realized how much of a hypocrite I was with my menu selection. I was loading up his lunch bag one morning when he asked me, “Daddy, how come you sell healthy drinks to grown-ups but you put really sweet drinks in our lunch?” I looked at the nutritional statement on the 6.75 ounce juice drink pouch I held in my hands and saw that it contained 100 calories. Like most parents at that time, I was making my choice based on what was on sale and there simply weren’t many lower calorie juice drinks available at the time.
Whether it was 100% juice or a juice drink with sugar added, our sons didn’t need to have 100 calorie drinks for lunch. And then I realized that Honest could do for juice drinks the same thing that Honest Tea did for bottled tea – develop an organic option that was just a tad sweet.
So Honest Kids® was launched – a 40-calorie organic juice drink containing between 30% and 42% juice (juice levels vary depending on the variety of the Honest Kids drink). We originally formulated the drinks as a blend of organic fruit juice concentrate and organic cane sugar. As the product line grew and our relationship with Coca-Cola deepened, we worked with Coca-Cola to eliminate the added sugar and sweeten them only with fruit juice to make the ingredient panel even more appealing to a label-reading parent.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but when we developed the taste profile for the drinks, our goal was NOT to create the best-tasting kids drink. We knew parents would support the switch to Honest Kids, but there aren’t many kids out there who would voluntarily choose a less sweet drink. Instead, we wanted to formulate a drink that tasted good enough for a kid to finish it. We knew that once children got used to the taste, they’d be fine drinking it and their parents would be happy.
And it seems like that’s what happened. Honest Kids is now doing over $100 million in sales, and is sold in national chains such as Wendy’s, Subway and Chik-fil-A. I frequently hear how Honest Kids is the preferred drink at soccer games and birthday parties because parents feel comfortable sharing it with other children.
Honest Kids turns 10 years old this spring and Elie, now 23 years old, is a high school teacher in Chicago public schools. He no longer regularly relies on a drink pouch for his lunch drink, but still gets a chuckle when he sees store displays of Honest Kids that all started with his simple and apparently obvious question.