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Honest Tea, a Bethesda, Md.-based independent operating unit of The Coca-Cola Co., recently crossed a major milestone, selling more than 1 billion beverages since its founding in 1998. With its focus on organic and Fair Trade Certified ingredients, the company has purchased roughly 22 million pounds of organic ingredients to date.
“Sixteen years ago, it almost felt like I sold every bottle myself,” said TeaEO Seth Goldman in a statement. “It’s nice to see our brand and mission reach an audience well beyond my personal sales route. This is a testament to the persistence and faith of our team as well as the increasing acceptance of organic ingredients.”
In the 16 years it has been in business, Honest Tea has released 85 organic beverages across product lines consisting of bottled teas, tea bags, juice drinks, kombucha, a cacao-based drink, sodas and most recently, lemonades and a limeade variety. With an emphasis on organic, Fair Trade Certified tea, Honest Tea also has purchased millions of pounds of organic herbs, sugar cane and juice concentrates.
In its first year, Honest Tea sold 300,000 bottles of tea, the company says. Through 2007, the brand grew availability to 15,000 stores, selling 112 million bottles in its first 10 years. In 2008, Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co. became a partner, first investing in the brand and then fully acquiring it in 2011. Since The Coca-Cola Co.’s investment, Honest Tea’s availability has grown to more than 100,000 outlets, and resulted in sales of more than 888 million additional units. In turn, Honest Tea’s demand for organic ingredients has increased from 800,000 pounds in 2007 to an estimated 8 million pounds in 2014, it says.
“One of our core missions is to democratize organics,” said Goldman in a statement. “Now when I visit with our suppliers, they know it’s not just some guy who started a company out of his house; it’s a representative of The Coca-Cola Co.”
Since creating its first Fair Trade Certified bottled tea in 2003, Honest Tea has converted its entire line of teas to Fair Trade, donating more than $500,000 in premiums to communities in India, China and South Africa, among others. These funds have gone directly to community-managed projects, including new hospitals, infrastructure, schools and houses for tea garden workers.