Driving Growth Through Innovation

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When Seth Goldman, president and chief executive officer of the beverage company Honest Tea, set out to enter the beverage market, he was met with a number of challenges, making innovation crucial.

Speaking at The NATSO Show in Las Vegas, Nev., Goldman shared his experience during a keynote address.

Honest Tea set out to make an all-natural, healthy beverage that offered fewer calories. But while the company was succeeding in stores like Whole Foods, the company wanted to reach into a broader market. "We were succeeding in natural foods," he said. "But we wanted to get into other stores."

Goldman approached beverage distributors who rejected him, arguing the tea wasn't sweet enough or was too expensive. 

That is when Goldman got creative. The company began working with a cheese distributor who brought the beverage to gourmet stores. A corned beef distributor helped get Honest Tea into delis. And a charcoal distributor ultimately helped them get into grocery stores. 

“Finally the beverage distributors started taking our calls because we were taking up their shelf space,” he said.  

Goldman realized that the business would have to grow in order to work with beverage distributors and the retailers that wanted to carry the product. “We started getting approached by companies that wanted to invest in us. We decided to partner with Coca-Cola,” he said.  

In 2008 Coca Cola bought 40 percent of Honest Tea. Before Coke invested in the business, Honest Tea was in 15,000 stores. “This year we were in 100,000 outlets and have national distribution,” Goldman said.

The company also made a drink for children and sales have grown 500 percent, which is even more impressive because the kids’ drink market overall is decreasing.

“We have a quote on the wall of Honest Tea that says, ‘Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it,’” Goldman said. 

Goldman encouraged attendees to think about innovative things they could do within their own businesses, such as adding a sports court where customers could stretch out after a long day or invite a local food producer to sell products, such as honey, at the location.

Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio/NATSO

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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