Honest Tea creator plans a second act for organic tea born in Bethesda

Coca-Cola announced plans in May to phase out its Honest Tea line of organic teas by the end of this year, but Honest Tea will make something of a comeback.

It won’t be called Honest Tea though. Coke owns that brand name.



Seth Goldman, who started Honest Tea with business partner Barry Nalebuff in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1998, will launch a new bottled tea business, this time also with business partner Spike Mendelsohn, the celebrity chef who co-owns the two-year-old healthy eating, planet-friendly snack company Eat the Change.

“We are moving aggressively because we know the opportunity is there. We hope to get a production run within coming months and be on store shelves by the end of October,” Goldman told WTOP while on his way to meet with a bottling company outside of Pittsburgh.

“We have not yet announced the brand name, but it will be one that evokes a lot of the same values. We’ll announce it later this summer,” he said.

The goal is to sell the tea through national channels, working with grocers and retailers who already carry Honest Tea.

When WTOP talked with Goldman shortly after Coke’s announcement, he didn’t sound that interested in a tea reboot. But response to Coke’s decision changed his mind.

headshot of Seth Goldman
Seth Goldman, who started Honest Tea with business partner Barry Nalebuff in Bethesda, Maryland in 1998, will launch a new bottled tea business, this time also with business partner Spike Mendelsohn. (Courtesy Eat the Change)

“The overwhelming response on LinkedIn the past two weeks have taught me several things. First, is a true commitment to the values underlying Honest Tea really counts — it makes a difference to our consumers, our suppliers, our employees and our partners in the natural foods world,” Goldman said.

“The second learning is that the community of people who Honest Tea touched and inspired was even larger and more passionate, than we hoped,” he added.

It will also mean continuing to do business with Goldman’s organic and free trade suppliers with whom Honest Tea has partnered to source ingredients.

Mendelsohn, best known for his beefy burgers at Good Stuff Eatery and who has pivoted to making plant-based burgers good at PLNT Burger, part of Eat the Change, will bring a chef’s influence to tea.

“He’s got a wonderful knowledge of aromas and spices. We will find a way to add a chef’s touch,” Goldman said

Coke bought a 40% stake in Honest Tea in 2008 and bought the company outright in 2011.

In deciding to discontinue the Honest Tea line, Coke cited prioritizing fewer, bigger brands with the greatest potential for scale and profitable growth.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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