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For Honest Tea, Coke Is It


We've recently hired more than a dozen new marketing and salespeople to support our expansion out West with Coke's distribution network. I saw our newest team members in action this past week at sales rallies in Arizona and California as we introduced the brand. These Honest Tea-m members bring a great surge of energy to the company just when we need it. And yet, I teased them that it doesn't seem fair that their jobs are so easy after nine previous years of hard work.

Any salesperson who has been with Honest Tea for more than two years has had to deal with setbacks and disappointments from distributors and buyers who didn't think there was a need for a low-sugar, organic beverage. During Honest Tea's first five years, distributors rejected us at least eight times more than we were accepted. And in retrospect, many of the beer and soda distributors we were begging to give us a chance were actually not the best fit for us. These folks made our work frustrating, and even though we enjoyed the challenge, it was never easy to get one on board.

Now we're launching Honest Tea with a network of Coke distributors who have been hearing firsthand from their customers that they need a healthier, organic brand, so the Coke salespeople are as eager for Honest Tea as we are to work with them. It has led to quite a few pinch-me-I'm-dreaming moments this week.

But today was as much a new day for Coke as it was for us. Honest Tea will be the first organic brand to go on either Pepsi or Coke trucks, and for many stores and consumers, it will be the first organic product that they encounter. For that matter, today was the first day that many Coke salespeople came to understand what the terms organic and Fair Trade Certified mean, and I was delighted to see more than a few heads nodding in approval.

We'll see what happens when the cases enter the warehouse in a few weeks, but after the rallies, the Coke salespeople were buzzing about all the accounts they wanted to bring Honest Tea. I had to remind the new HT folks that it wasn't always this way, but I'm not worried about them getting off easy. There is still plenty of hard work to be done. Even when you're running downhill, you still have to move your legs very quickly.

Last updated: Aug 22, 2008

SETH GOLDMAN | Columnist | Co-founder of Honest Tea

Seth Goldman is Co-Founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea, the company he co-founded in 1998 with Professor 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.

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