Last week, I attended The 2nd Annual Organic Summit at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. It was quite and event and garnered a fair amount of media attention from public radio and Grist.org. But the event wasn't about hype, it was about the issues facing the organic industry today.
Interestingly, this year's organic summit seemed to be more about the groundbreaking newcomers in today's organic industry as opposed to yesterdays enormously successful leaders. Daria Myers of Orgins Organics spoke about her company's organic personal care line and a number of "organic groundbreakers" including Brahm Ahmadi of People's Grocery and Patrice Gros of Foundation Farm & Farming School also spoke.
The highlight for me, however, was the closing keynote: Maintaining the Integrity of an Organic Brand when Coa-Cola Calls. Seth Goldman, President and Co-Founder of Honest Tea and Michael Ohmstede, SVP of Business Development for Venturing & Emerging Brands of Coca-Cola together told the story of Honest Tea and the acquisition of 40% of its equity by Coca-Cola.
Though in my opinion, Seth and Michael are still on their "honeymoon", the principles of the deal seem to make sense. Fortunately, Seth is mentored by Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Farm, who's deal to sell part of Stonyfield Farm to Dannon - 40% ownership with control of the board staying in the hands of the founders for a period of time and a buyout tentatively planned for the future was the model for Honest Tea. Coke made a smart move and with their prior experience deep-sixing Mad River Traders beverages fresh in their minds, Ohmstede sounded like he's approaching this deal with more respect of the Goldman's wishes. Buying in when Honest Tea's sales were only $27 million was a smart move too. Honest Tea is in dire need of distribution and Coke certainly gives them that. Honest Tea's sales are projected to be $40 million by the end of 2008, so something is working already.
This is Jylle Lardaro, co-chair of The Organic Summit and New Hope Natural Media's Director of Organic Industry Alliances. She reflects on what was presented and talked about at The Organic Summit.
This is Erica Stone, the conference director of The Organic Summit (and Natural Products Expo East). She talks about the attendees and the locations...as well as where The Organic Summit will be held in 2009.
For more information from NBJ on the Organic Markets, make sure you check out NBJ's "Natural & Organic Foods" channel where all our natural & organic foods and beverages research is aggregated.