Chuck Muth, Former Coke Exec, Moves from Bevs to Burgers

Longtime bottling and sales executive Chuck Muth announced his retirement from Coke in 2016, but apparently he couldn’t retire from Seth Goldman, his former boss at Honest Tea. The visionary environmental entrepreneur and the execution-focused beverage guy are reuniting, this time around Beyond Meat, the plant-based protein brand where Goldman serves as executive chairman.

Today Beyond Meat announced that Muth was joining the company as Chief Growth Officer, charged with helping grow and expand the range of sales for the socially conscious, entrepreneurial product — a role similar to what he accomplished at Honest Tea, although one that is taking place outside of the Coke system, where the bulk of his career had been spent.

“As I get further along in my career, [being at a mission-driven company] is important. It’s about the legacy you leave behind and the things that you do. This is something that I can feel really good about,” Muth said. “What we’re trying to accomplish at Beyond Meat is really important and has long-term implications both from a health perspective but also sustainability.”

Muth will relocate from his current home in Maryland to Beyond Meat’s headquarters in Southern California. His official start will be at the end of the month. Muth was previously the SVP for Coca-Cola Co.’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) division as well as Vice President of Sales for Honest Tea.

At Beyond Meat Muth will help lead the charge for the company’s growth at a time when more and more plant-based meat substitutes have come to the market. Most immediately, Muth said, he will help build out the sales organization and work on targeting new accounts. Also key to the company’s growth will be getting the product into more food service and on-premise accounts as Muth says consumers are often more open to trying a new product in these locations.

Currently, Beyond Meat’s star product, the fresh “Beyond Burger” is sold only at Whole Foods Markets. The company hopes to expand distribution and make the product have wider availability. A large part of the sales strategy, and a point of differentiation, is for the burger to be sold out of the meat case or meat section rather than meat substitutes or frozen set.

“Our frozen products are still the largest part of the business so it’s still very important to us. But we believe the future is in fresh and that will be the primary focus in terms of growth,” Muth said. “We’re targeting meat cases, we’re not targeting just vegans or vegetarians, we’re targeting a mass audience… We’re not saying you can’t eat meat or you shouldn’t eat meat. We’re just saying that a shift in your diet can have a positive impact for you as well as the environment.”

Muth acknowledged that he will have a learning curve in the jump from beverages to food, but said that working in a new part of the “food ecosystem” was part of the appeal along with Goldman’s involvement. Beyond Meat’s desire to improve the American diet and help with environmental issues was also a draw for Muth, who said he was eager to join a mission-driven company. Plus, there’s still an affinity for the environmental crusader who dragged him into the conscious CPG business in the first place.

“The opportunity to work with Seth, who shares many of the same values I share, was very important to me,” he said. “And the fact that he is involved gives it a lot of credibility… also the opportunity to do something outside of beverages was interesting.”

The news of the new role comes less than a year after Muth had announced his “retirement” in December of 2016. However, says Muth, he was quickly offered several consulting offers and decided to ease back into the industry. The consulting made him realize he wanted a full-time position again.

“[Retirement] got boring. I realized I was too young,” Muth told NOSH. “Not a lot of people are surprised I’m back. People have told me they were betting on that.”

In fact, at his retirement party, a fellow executive apologized for missing the festivities but promised he’d be at Muth’s “next retirement party.”