Here's another exchange with Julie, the Honest Tea customer who is disappointed that we made a deal with Coke.
By partnering with Coca-Cola, you may gain a net increase of customers at mainstream retail outlets, but you will alienate those who previously valued your commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Even if the end result for Honest Tea is increased consumption of a healthy, organic, Fair Trade-certified beverage, loyal customers will find themselves confronted with the dilemma of supporting a multinational corporation that has a history of violating global, social, and environmental rights, and that already owns more than a fair share of the beverage market.
Here I think it is important to avoid creating a sense of economic exclusivity. Organics need to be democratized. I love Whole Foods and independent natural food stores — we wouldn't be in business without them. But if we're really serious about making an impact on the environment and on the American diet, we have to expand the reach of organics and healthier products to regions and populations where they are not widely available. I would understand if our core consumers were alienated because we changed our product, but if they become alienated just because more people can buy our product, then that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
SETH GOLDMAN | Columnist | Co-founder of Honest Tea
Seth Goldman is the President and TeaEO of Honest Tea, the company he co-founded in 1998 with Professor Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management. He's preparing the September release of a graphic novel titled Mission in a Bottle.