Honest Revamps Organic Sports Drink Line


Honest Tea, a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company since 2011, is preparing to unveil a revamp of its USDA certified organic sports drink line Honest Sport at Natural Product Expo West 2017.

The product line, available in Berry, Lemon and Orange varieties, debuted last June in a pilot test at Whole Foods locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Each SKU contains 100 calories per 16.9 oz. bottle and is made with 5 percent fruit juice from concentrate.

During a visit to BevNET offices in Watertown, Mass., Honest Tea co-founder and “TeaEO Emeritus” Seth Goldman explained that, after being inspired by his experience participating in a triathlon, he saw an opportunity to leverage the company’s strong equity as a leading organic beverage brand with a history of successful product line extensions to fill the need for an organic, better-for-you sports drink aimed at health-conscious consumers.

“There were no organic sports drinks within the [Coke] portfolio,” Goldman said.

He noted that Honest is pursuing a different marketing approach than category leader Gatorade took in launching its own organic version last year called G Organic, emphasizing the brand’s overall credibility with organic consumers rather than trying to appeal directly to Gatorade fans.

The redesigned Honest Sport label is part of an effort to better communicate the product’s premium positioning. In place of a circular ying-yang image representing the drink’s three roles of “Rehydrate, Refresh, Replenish,” the label now features a cleaner look with more white space and a clearer emphasis on the call-outs of “sport” and “electrolytes and fuel.”

That ethos also extends to the drink’s formulation. Goldman said that, in creating the beverage, the company made sure Honest Sport met all the requirements included in the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) definition of a sports drink and sought to add as little extraneous ingredients as possible, aiming to avoid what he called the “lots of other tastes” found in competing products.

The addition of around 23-24 grams of Fair Trade certified organic cane sugar to each SKU was part of meeting the ACSM’s requirements, Goldman explained.

“A zero-calorie sports drink doesn’t make sense to me,” he said, noting that the organic sugar provides the functional athletic performance boost that makes it different from simply a flavored water.

The electrolytes in Honest Sport are provided by the addition of potassium citrate and sea salt. Besides the lemon SKU, Goldman said organic lemon juice from concentrate is also included in the other two Honest Sport flavors to act as an acidifier.

Although Honest Tea has utilized some paid influencers in marketing campaigns, Goldman demurred on idea of employing athletes or celebrities to act as brand spokespersons for the Sport line. The company will focus on product demonstrations and guerrilla marketing activities to build awareness. He added that the company would also be “aggressively” pursuing sponsorship opportunities for athletic competitions in the future.

The company will continue building Honest Sport through the natural channel, where Goldman said taste was the primary driver of most consumer purchases. Within the natural grocery channel, he said the line will likely compete with other better-for-you hydration drinks, such as enhanced functional waters and organic coconut waters.

“The plan for 2017 is for more natural presence,” he said, noting that Honest Sport would continue to be distributed through UNFI networks. “I see [the organic sports drink category] as having the same potential as organic tea.”