Honest Tea’s Mission To Sell Less-Sugary Beverages Includes Philanthropy

Corporate Goals Tied Directly to Sweet Tzedakah

Reduce, Reuse: Honest Tea ‘TeaEO’ Seth Goldman (third from right) celebrates the company’s recycling campaign in Manhattan’s Times Square.
getty images
Reduce, Reuse: Honest Tea ‘TeaEO’ Seth Goldman (third from right) celebrates the company’s recycling campaign in Manhattan’s Times Square.

By Curt Schleier

Published November 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

“I associate the word tzedakah with tzedek, which is righteousness,” Goldman said. “In the long term, that’s much more powerful [than just giving charity]. There’s a great phrase in the Talmud, ‘Justice shall you pursue.’ It’s not just that you pursue justice, but how you pursue it is equally important.

“If we have a company selling an unhealthy product and give away all or half our profits to charity we would only be pursuing half the commandment.”

The desire to do good helped Honest Tea get off the ground. Goldman’s first sale was to Whole Foods Market, a supermarket chain with a similarly altruistic mission. In fact, the buyer there, impressed by the founders’ passion, made a significant commitment to Honest Tea before Goldman and Nalebuff had a factory or were even certain they could produce their teas in substantial quantities.

The motivation to do good also attracted investors. Jeff Swartz, then the CEO of the Timberland Company, was an early one: “What attracted me specifically was that Honest Tea didn’t do philanthropy. Rather, they sought to integrate doing well and doing good, a philosophy I tried to live by at Timberland,” said Swartz.

Honest Tea’s commitment to altruism sometimes trumps the company’s sense of competition. For example, Honest Tea’s children’s drink, Honest Kids, is just 40 calories, compared with the 100 calorie industry norm. When competitors followed suit (though no one dropped their caloric count all the way down to 40), Honest Tea didn’t consider it a threat but a victory.

“Millions bought Honest Kids and 100 million bought theirs,” Nalebuff said. “We set the example that it’s possible to buy a less sweet version of a kid’s pouch.”

Moreover, Honest Tea didn’t stop there. It was impossible to recycle the pouches because they contained a foil liner that couldn’t be separated from the rest of the pouch. So Goldman went another direction — upcycling.

He contacted a company that was able to reuse empty pouches to make things like pencil cases and tote bags. They even made an Honest Kids gown out of the pouches that a young concert pianist wore for her 2008 Carnegie Hall debut.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.