Seth Goldman Reduces His Role at Honest, Transitions to “TeaEO Emeritus”

Seth-GoldmanAfter nearly 20 years as its fearless leader, Seth Goldman is reducing his role at Honest Tea. As first reported by The Washington Post last week, the company’s co-founder is relinquishing the bulk of his day-to-day responsibilities as the president and CEO at Honest, taking on a new title of “TeaEO emeritus” a position in which he’ll continue to be involved in the brand in a part-time capacity.

Goldman handing over the reins at Honest comes nearly five years after the company’s acquisition by The Coca-Cola Company in 2011, a deal that saw the departure of Honest’s other co-founder, Barry Nalebuff from the company’s board of directors. Goldman, however, remained, continuing to lead the company as it graduated from a Whole Foods favorite to a beverage that’s now available nationwide at the likes of Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A, and is projected to do more than $170 million in sales in 2015.

“With the brand graduating up, it means the day-to-day challenges for me are no longer that entrepreneurial fight that I’ve grown so accustomed to and that I thrive on,” Goldman explained during a call with BevNET on Monday.

The Massachusetts native also pointed the company’s 2014 decision to begin using Fair Trade certified sugar as one of several indicators that his brand’s in good hands at Coca-Cola, saying “I kept seeing that of the decisions being made that I didn’t control, they’ve been the right decisions.”

The plan is for Goldman to remain at Honest in an at-large capacity, scouting for new interesting brands for its parent unit, Coke’s Venturing and Emerging Brands group, where he has already helped at least serve as a source of information about Coke for other entrepreneurs who have been purchased by the company. But Goldman’s beginning a new venture too, as the executive chairman at plant-based protein food startup Beyond Meat, where he has been a member of the board since 2012. Beyond Meat’s CEO Ethan Brown celebrated Goldman’s new appointment in a press release issued last week.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have Seth as a close and trusted advisor to me for a number of years,” Brown wrote. “Given his tremendous capabilities and expertise and our shared passion for the Beyond Meat mission, I’ve long sought Seth’s greater involvement and am absolutely thrilled to have him join the team as our Executive Chairman.”

Goldman likened Beyond Meat to his early days of Honest, saying that despite the disparate categories, he still gets the same puzzled look from consumers when explaining Beyond Meat’s mission that he did in 1997 when telling them his plans for a lower-calorie bottled tea.

“What I love about the brand is its challenger mentality,” Goldman added. “That’s what you’ve got to have.”