Honest TeaÂ® and The Coca-Cola Company announced that The Coca-Cola Company has exercised its option to acquire the remaining portion of Honest Tea. The move completes a transaction which began three years ago when Coca-Cola, led by the Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit of Coca-Cola North America, purchased a minority stake in the company. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Honest Tea, the leading organic bottled tea company, will continue to be based out of Bethesda, MD. In order to retain its entrepreneurial culture, it will operate as a stand-alone business under current TeaEO Seth Goldman, his management team, and current Honest Tea employees. Goldman and VEB have developed a unique operating model that allows Honest Tea autonomy to continue to run its day-to-day operations while accessing the scale benefits of the Coca-Cola system in various areas, including manufacturing and distribution. As part of the VEB team, Honest Tea will also begin to sell current VEB brands to the natural channel.
Under an innovative arrangement with The Coca-Cola Company, Goldman has chosen to reinvest most of his proceeds from the sale back into Honest Tea. Goldman's co-founder, Barry Nalebuff and Gary Hirshberg, CE-YO of Stonyfield Farm, will continue to provide informal guidance to Honest Tea as part of the Advisory Council.
"We started Honest Tea thirteen years ago with an ambitious mission to create a delicious, healthy beverage alternative produced with the health of our planet and our consumers in mind," said Seth Goldman, co-founder, President and TeaEO of Honest Tea. "Over the past three years, it has been exciting to see the reach and impact of our mission expand as a result of our partnership with The Coca-Cola Company."
Since receiving an investment from Coca-Cola, Honest Tea has made exciting progress in a variety of areas, including the expansion of Honest Tea distribution from approximately 15,000 outlets in 2008 to more than 75,000 today, the introduction of a ground-breaking Honest Tea plastic bottle that uses 22 percent less material, and doubling the number of offerings as well as the sales of organic, zero-calorie drinks. Additionally, Honest Tea has committed to transitioning its entire tea line of Honest Teas to Fair Trade Certified™ by the end of March 2011.
The consistently strong growth of Honest Tea, as well as its leadership in the natural foods channel, was among the many elements that attracted The Coca-Cola Company. "When we made the investment in Honest Tea, we did so because we saw that it had great potential to be a significant brand of the future. Three years after, the brand truly reflects where consumer demand is today and we are excited about being on the verge of still more growth," said Deryck van Rensburg, President and General Manager, Venturing and Emerging Brands, Coca-Cola North America. "Beyond growth, having the unique vantage point of a minority investee and watching Honest Tea has helped our company in many other ways, from encouraging Coca-Cola to obtain organic certification at three of our facilities, to establishing a state of the art tea brewing and filtration system at a bottling plant. Additionally, it enabled us to participate with Honest in a number of sustainability initiatives on recycling. All of these efforts reflect why VEB has chosen to invest in entrepreneurs like the team at Honest -- they provide a source of innovative ideas and energy that enhance our own efforts."
Honest Tea was started in 1998 when Goldman and his co-founder, Barry Nalebuff, brewed samples of tea in Goldman's Bethesda, MD home and brought them to Fresh Fields (now Whole Foods Market). Since then the brand has become the top-ranked tea brand in the natural foods channel and has expanded into mainstream grocery and convenience stores. "This is our chance to bring organic beverages to the mainstream," said Goldman. "Consumers will discover that they can have it all - great taste, fewer calories, and organic. Honest."
About Honest Tea
Honest Tea is the nation's top-selling organic bottled tea company with a mission to make great-tasting, truly healthy organic beverages sweetened with less sugar and fewer calories than most bottled beverages. Honest Tea's product lines include: Honest Tea ready-to-drink bottled teas in glass and PET #1 bottles, Honest Ade organic thirst quenchers and Honest Kids drink pouches. All varieties are USDA-certified organic and by the end of March 2011, all teas will be Fair Trade Certified™. Since Honest Tea was founded in Bethesda, Maryland in 1998, the company has sustained an annual compound growth rate of more than 60%. Honest Tea has been continuously recognized for its impressive growth and mission-driven business practices. In addition to being named one of The Better World Shopping Guide's "Ten Best Companies on the Planet based on their overall social and environmental record," Honest Tea was also listed as one of PlanetGreen.com's "Top 7 Green Corporations of 2010," received Greenopia.com's coveted 4-Leaf Rating as "the greenest beverage company" for the third year in a row and was recently ranked by The Huffington Post as one of the leading "8 Revolutionary Socially Responsible Companies."
For more information, visit www.honesttea.com.
About Venturing and Emerging Brands
Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) is a dedicated operating unit of Coca-Cola North America charged with identifying high-potential growth brands in the North American beverage space for investment or ownership by The Coca-Cola Company and exploring potential synergistic relationships with these investments. With direct access to the global resources and industry expertise of The Coca-Cola Company and its system, VEB is uniquely positioned to develop emerging beverage brands of The Coca-Cola Company to their full potential. In addition to the recent acquisition of Honest Tea, VEB manages brands such as illy issimo, Cascal, Sokenbicha and has an equity investment in Zico Coconut Water.
About The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is the world's largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. Led by Coca-ColaÂ®, the world's most valuable brand, the Company's portfolio features 14 billion dollar brands including Diet CokeÂ®, FantaÂ®, SpriteÂ®, Coca-Cola ZeroÂ®, vitaminwaterÂ®, PoweradeÂ®, Minute MaidÂ®, SimplyÂ® and GeorgiaÂ®. Globally, we are the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, juices and juice drinks and ready-to-drink teas and coffees. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company's beverages at a rate of 1.7 billion servings a day. With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, our Company is focused on initiatives that reduce our environmental footprint, support active, healthy living, create a safe, inclusive work environment for our associates, and enhance the economic development of the communities where we operate. For more information about our Company, please visit our website at www.thecoca-colacompany.com.