Honest Tea's Seth Goldman finds success in staying true to his values.

We last spoke with Seth Goldman in 2010, just as the news of Coca-Cola's acquisition of Honest Tea went public. Now, we're checking in to see how things have changed.

We looked back on the people we’ve championed as BrandInnovatorsover the years. And we chatted with some of our favorites to find out what’s new in their worlds and, with the objective of informing our own, what’s next. Here, we talk to Seth Goldman.

Though his title (and his mission) remains the same, a lot has changed in the year since we named Seth Goldman one of our 2010 BrandInnovators.

Most notably, in March 2011 Honest Tea was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company, which the brand first took on as a minority investor in 2007 to achieve wider distribution.
Goldman has been busy leveraging this most recent opportunity to achieve national expansion for the brand and to help further the reach and impact of Honest Tea’s mission of sustainability.
We asked him to look back on the past year and what has changed, and what has stayed the same, for the “startup” brand that is now the nation’s top selling ready-to-drink organic tea.
BP: What does the Honest Tea brand stand for today?
SG: Honest Tea continues to stand for authentic and delicious organic beverages-our core marketing message is “Nature Got It Right, We Put It In a Bottle.”
The brand’s PET line was recently refreshed to more prominently highlight the Honest brand name, using a clean white background and images of our simple, natural ingredients.
BP: How have Honest Tea’s recent sustainable packaging efforts (i.e., the release of a new PET bottle) been received by consumers?
SG: When we reduced our bottle weight by 22 percent our consumers initially reacted negatively to the cavity underneath the bottle. Once we put language on the bottle explaining why the cavity was necessary to maintain the structure of the bottle, they were satisfied. But later this year we will be moving to a new mold that removes the dome, without increasing the amount of resin.
BP: Is the environmental impact of packaging still top of mind for the brand?
SG: Our environmental impact is always top of mind, and for the foreseeable future, packaging will continue to be the place where we have the largest impact. We continue to explore packaging options that lighten our impact on the environment.
BP: Last time you spoke with us, you were exploreing the possibility of using Coke’s PlantBottle materials.

SG: We are in the midst of working to operationalize Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle for Honest Tea. We hope to share some more news about that opportunity early next year.
BP: Now that you have the diverse marketing resources of Coke behind your brand, does this at all diminish the importance of packaging in connecting with your consumer?
SG: No. But it does create additional opportunities for us to connect with consumers through different beverage formats, including fresh-brewed tea and chilled drinks.
BP: What is your perception of the role that packaging plays in supporting the brand?
SG: Our packaging is the most tangible tool we have to bond with our consumers, so we keep pushing ourselves to lighten our footprint and highlight our company story through our packaging. That starts with the material, but also includes our latest initiative to include quotes and background about our company on the inside of the label.
BP: How does Honest Tea continue to stay relevant?
SG: The best way to stay relevant is to stay close to our consumers, especially as their behavior and tastes evolve. Every month we participate in hundreds of live events with our consumers, and we also hear from hundreds of consumers online. Our recent PET redesign was a great opportunity to reinforce and sharpen the way our brand comes to life.
BP: What idea, technology or trend do you see as having the greatest impact in the next 15 years?
SG: Very few packaged goods companies will be in the same package they are today. The combination of consumer pressure and rising commodity costs will drive us all toward lighter-weight, more sustainable solutions. As an economy, we have no choice but to move toward “cradle-to- cradle” systems. I expect us all to move away from heavy containers toward those with more efficient product to package ratios. [JA]