Mission-based brands resonate with consumers. Shoppers want to feel good about the products they purchase. Seth shares his journey as an activist to entrepreneur, industry thought leader, and no compromise iconic brand builder. 

Today’s story is about the importance of your mission. Your mission, what your brand stands for. Not just that you want to get a product into the hands of more consumers, but more importantly, what does your product stand for beyond the four corners of your package? Let’s face it, no matter how inspired a consumer is, not everyone has the capability of taking time off work to repair a devastated village, to teach someone how to read and write when they don’t have schools, to help make health care more accessible.

Today’s story comes from thought leader, Seth Goldman, with Honest Tea. Learn how Seth has baked in his passion for activism into the DNA of Honest Tea, and how he’s been able to help communicate the value of that to retailers. In his story today Seth shares with us how he can help consumers feel better about the products that they’re buying, while delivering incredible value at the shelf by giving consumers what they really want and need.

We also talked about how Seth was able to help a big brand stay true to the values of Honest Tea, which has helped him extend his mission into even the McDonald’s happy meal. In addition to this, you’re going to learn about other passions Seth has for evangelism, including his journey to Beyond Meat, and how he’s working to help Beyond Meat get on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about Honest Tea

Click here to learn more about Beyond Meat



Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #38

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.


Dan: Welcome, today's story is about the importance of your mission. Your mission, what your brand stands for. Not just that you want to get a product into the hands of more consumers, but more importantly, what does your product stand for beyond the four corners of your package? Let's face it, no matter how inspired a consumer is, not everyone has the capability of taking time off work to repair a devastated village, to teach someone how to read and write when they don't have schools, to help make health care more accessible.

Today's story comes from a thought leader, Seth Goldman, with Honest Tea. Learn how Seth has baked in his passion for activism into the DNA of Honest Tea, and how he's been able to help communicate the value of that to retailers. In his story today Seth shares with us how he can help consumers feel better about the products that they're buying, while delivering incredible value at the shelf by giving consumers what they really want and need.

We also talked about how Seth was able to help a big brand stay true to the values of Honest Tea, which has helped him extend his mission into even the McDonald's happy meal. In addition to this, you're going to learn about other passions Seth has for evangelism, including his journey to Beyond Meat, and how he's working to help Beyond Meat get on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Here's Seth. Seth, thank you for joining me today, I really appreciate you making time for me. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, and your journey from being in the finance world to being an entrepreneur?

Seth: Yeah. Sure. Well, I actually, I think I started as an activist, and I'm still an activist-

Dan: Good to hear.

Seth: I worked in the non-profit sector, and I worked in the public, on Capitol Hill, and then, after going to business school, I sort of discovered this whole world of socially responsible and mission-driven business. After business school, Iwent to work for the Calvert Group, which does mutual funds that have the social and environment screens on them. Then, that got me exposed to that world, but the thing that really appealed to me was the entrepreneurship side of it.

I left Calvert in 1998 to launch Honest Tea out of my house, Now it's 20 years in, I've scaled Honest Tea into an international brand, and I've also, back in 2012, joined the board of Beyond Meat, and became executive chairman a few years ago. That's enabled me now to split my time between Honest Tea and Beyond Meat, helping both mission-driven businesses grow and prosper.

Dan: Did you have a chance to listen to the interview I did with Chuck Muth?

Seth: I did, I really enjoyed it.

Dan: Thank you, I actually forgot to ask you that before we hit the record button. Chuck was able to provide so many great insights, and as you kind of see by what I do in the podcast, it's about helping brands communicate that value that you're talking about, so that they can leverage that on shelf and help retailers. The mission, of course, is to get healthy products on more retailer shelves and in the hands of more consumers.

Seth: Yep, that's my mission too.

Dan: Well thank you, and again, thank you for all you do. Can you go back to the activist part, and let's talk a little bit about that.

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: What got you started in there? You said you've always been that way, and I have to admit I am too, but what was the transformative thing that caused you to really go down that path? What inspired you?

Seth: Well, I come from a family that's, my parents are both professors, and so I think everyone in my family really tries to act professionally, in terms of their careers, and in their personal lives, in a way that is consistent with their values. It wasn't that I all of a sudden woke up one day and said, I'm going to go do this. It was really that I felt like I was doing it all the way through, even in high school and college, involved in different activist causes, and so the work I've been doing with Honest Tea feels very much like an extension of that belief system, and obviously that journey.

Dan: One of the things that I really appreciate about you Seth, as being a leader in our industry, is the authenticity that you bring to everything you do, that is so important, and it's so inspiring, so thank you again.

Seth: Thank you.

Dan: I appreciate your time. I appreciate your saying that. Can you go a little deeper into that? Where I'm going with this is, a lot of brands when they start out, they're so distracted, they've got so many things coming at them at so many different directions, at warp speed, and they're trying to figure out, okay, how do I get my product on the shelf-

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: How do I stay true to my mission? What advice would you have for a brand to remain in their lane?

Seth: Well, you really have to understand what your brand is, what it stands for. It can't stand for everything, especially when you're an emerging brand in a small area, you've got to have a very unique and clear point of difference, and what will you do that no one else will do. I often challenge people, with Honest Tea. I said, if Honest Tea were to make a pretzel, what would it be, how would it be different? If Honest Tea were to make a pizza, what would it be, and how would it be different?

Meaning, one of the attributes of the brand that are always core to the brand, and clear, and intrinsic, and different. That's the first thing, you can't get. As you know, the shelves are so crowded and so competitive, you can't just get there because you want to be there.

Dan: True.

Seth: Even if you have money, that's not a guarantee, it's got to be you're bringing something to the shelf that's not there, and that has a unique point of difference that the buyer, and the consumer will understand and will come back for.

For Honest Tea, very clearly when we started it was just being a less sweet drink, and there was nothing else like it when we brought it out back in 1998. Then once we got that established we were also able to bring in the organic sourcing, and so that happened starting in 1999 and we just continued to convert all the ingredients over to organic. Now, of course, all the teas we make are fair trade certified as well.

What's nice now is that Honest Tea is expanding around the globe and in each market we go to. Obviously it's less sweet, it's organic, and then the fair trade is in process with a lot of these markets.

Once you have those guardrails established, even when you go into an international market where someone may not know the brand, we're going to really make sure that that brand identity and purpose is clear and robust.

Dan: That is so important. In fact, on that note, one of the things that you were talking about is how that brand messaging is so important. The large brands, which can usually pay to get on the shelf, the retailer's shelves, Coca Cola has adopted or acquired you, I guess if that's a fair way to put it. My question is, how do you help Coke remain true to your mission, since they have an older way of doing things? That's nothing against Coke, my point being is that, you as a disruptive brand are trying to carve out a very unique niche, focused on organic, focused on fair trade, all of these things that resonate with the consumers that buy your product. How do you work with a larger brand that that's not necessarily in their wheelhouse, and, more importantly, what advice would you have for brands that are kind of in the same place, where they're trying to figure out, where do they go?

Seth: Well, what was really clear, the reason Coke decided to buy Honest Tea, was because we were building something for the consumer, and in a space that they didn't have business, obviously the natural channel, organic consumer. Occasionally we have to remind everybody of that.

Dan: Yeah.

Seth: The reason that we're valuable is because we are doing things differently. There's often pressure, it's not really on Coke's part, just I would say, in general, that it just acts the way a big company does. I think it's been healthy, and obviously the reason I'm still engaged with Honest Tea is because we mutually found it useful for me to continue to be that conscience of the brand.

What's neat about that is that, here we are 20 years later, 10 years since Coke started to invest in Honest Tea, and I would say the brand is more Honest, than it was when Coke first invested. In the beginning only some of our ingredients were fair trade, but now all the ones that tend to be fair trade are fair trade, and that certainly our calorie, we brought out more zero calorie drinks than we had at the time. Of course, our organic purchasing power is so much more significant.

I think what made the brand unique is these points of difference, but we also know that we can't rest on those laurels, and so we have to continue to be challengers to the business. We have to think about, well, okay, what are some new ingredients we can bring in, what are some new partnerships we can create around our sourcing. Just because you're an innovator once, doesn't guarantee you will hold that position all the time.

Dan: Absolutely not, and on that note, most brands, as I talk about it, when they think of innovation they slap a different label on something, or they sprinkle a different flavor in it. True innovation starts in the natural channel, and the fact that you're able to leverage that relationship you have with Coke to help them help you stay true to your mission, and develop those innovative products that consumers want, that's the ideal way to expand a brand portfolio and extend your reach. As you said, you're now a global brand, so congratulations, and by the way, congratulations on being fair trade on everything you can.

Can you talk a little bit about why that's important? Fair trade?

Seth: Sure. We're buying ingredients that are from the poorest parts of the world, and that's not a strategy, that's just a fact, meaning tea, sugar, these are commodity products that are often sold at low prices, because there is a very competitive market, and our point of view is that, we want to buy the best ingredients we can, but we also want to make sure we can buy them in a way that supports a long term supply chain.

What we know is that, and I've been to many, or most, of the sugar and tea gardens that we source from, these are extremely environmentally aware and financially engaged, and economic self sufficiency for these communities, and the reason that we're able to make that happen is because, when we buy organic and fair trade, we are basically creating a higher price for ourselves. I don't say that like it's an inefficiency, but-because it's organic and fair trade we're helping to create more economic self sufficiency for our supplier communities, because they are able to charge a price that is higher than the commodity price in the market. What we get for paying that higher price is, number one, we know we're sourcing in a more robust ecosystem. The environmental conditions of these supplier communities haven't been affected by chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which affect the water table and, of course, the health of the workers.

Then, we are also investing in a skilled workforce, because a lot of the fair trade premiums, because of the higher price, the money goes back to invest in schools or health care. I've certainly seen the impact.

We did a program a few years ago where we invested in eye care for these communities. Of course, a lot of these communities lack access to eye care, and that's important for literacy, but it's also important for picking good tea leaves and doing your work well.

While these things certainly could be viewed as charitable, I view them through a self interested lens, these are just smart investments into our partners to make sure they're going to be around for the long term.

Dan: Well, and the efficacy involved in that, and that is so important. What I love about the natural channel Seth, is that so many of the brands that are in the natural channel, especially the iconic brands, are willing to go the extra lengths that you're talking about, to remain true to their mission, but I agree with you, it's not that you're creating a higher, more expensive ingredient for you, but you're providing the value that your consumers want. Point being, is that consumers want the products that meet their needs nutritionally, and I want to get into the organic piece in a minute, and the whole idea behind that is, if you are what you eat, then what you eat matters.

As you were saying, if you're eating products that were not tainted by a water table that's maybe not clean, or whatever, those products are much healthier for you, will sustain you longer. In the long run, a lot of those products, and this is an argument that I wish the natural channel would really focus on, is that even though you're paying a few pennies more at the shelf, if it sustains you longer, my argument would be that it's actually cheaper in the long run because you're giving your body what it needs.

Seth: Yeah. It's just our job to make sure the consumer understands that. Obviously to make a great tasting product, sometimes people get so excited with the mission they forget about how is the consumer going to receive it. We've been guilty of that on occasion as well, so I'm not pointing fingers, unless I'm pointing at ourselves.

Yeah, if you can make a product that gets the consumer excited, and do that in a way that works for your business model, then from our point of view, let's do everything we can for these supplier communities, to feel good about what we're making.

Dan: It really improves the taste of the product, the overall flavor profile. I remember when artificial sweeteners came in, the high fructose corn syrup, and we kind of had to get used to it, because that's what was out there, but sugar, organic cane sugar even better, has such a different flavor profile, and in going back to what you said, getting the best tea leaves, or the best products, there's a value to quality. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality products that meet their needs.

You frequently hear people talking about price is the only driver at shelf. The reality is that consumers are paying more for luxury and decadent items. For you to provide a decadent tea leaf, in the sense that it is as clean and as pure as it can be, to me that's hitting on all fronts.

Seth: Yeah, that's certainly the goal. At least thus far we've been able to continue to grow, so we've got a proposition that works for the consumer.

Dan: Great, and then, of course, you're able to give back to the community, and I love that, even the community that you're helping, because not only are you building a sustainable workforce, but you're building a loyal workforce that's going to give their very best efforts to you-

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: So you don't have to worry about someone cutting corners. Thank you again for doing that. Anything you want to share more about that, about your workforce and how you're able to leverage them, and how you're able to work with them, and perhaps some of the other activist type programs that you might be doing there?

Seth: Well, one of the things that's interesting, I was just in India last month, and one of the ironies about what we see is ... and one of the wonderful things is, we're seeing children that are first generation literate, meaning they're generations and generations of parents haven't been educated in school, and now these children are. These tea pluckers' children are getting educated. The irony of that, there's a few, one is that these kids, their parents can't even help them with their homework because they are coming home with questions about English homework, or things that the parents just can't answer, but the other irony is that these children are ... we're educating ourselves out of a workforce, meaning, these children are not going to come back and work in the tea gardens.

Unfortunately there's still a lot of poor people in the world, but eventually, if we keep doing this, these gardens are not going to be sustaining in the same way. We know it's the right thing to do, but we'll have to figure out at some point how we continue to harvest tea leaves. I can imagine by the time these kids have grown up, there aren't going to be tea pluckers by hand the way they are now.

Dan: That's an interesting conundrum, but okay, let's be honest, how many parents are listening to this who cannot help their kids with their homework, I think that happens around what, third grade? Just kidding.

Seth: Well, yeah. It's a little different there.

Dan: Oh no, I understand completely, but it's kind of a funny way to think of it. But back to what you're talking about, kind of working yourself out of that resource. Have you thought of different strategies, different ways to go about fixing that? Maybe bringing in more workers to that area? What are some of the things?

Seth: What happens is a lot of the workers come from the north to the south, we're based in the south. There are still quite a lot of poor workers in the north, and they move to the south.

Dan: Okay, great.

Seth: Then the question is, well, maybe tea gardens will be more in the north. There's also climate issues, of course, as climate change happens, different yields are effected too, point is that it's a dynamic process and we just have to understand that.

Dan: Well, it's great that either way you're taking a leadership role in it, and more importantly, you're using that, you're leveraging that against your brand.

Now, you talked about organic and how you're trying to help communicate the value of organic to retailers and across the entire ecosystem in some of the things I've listened to. Can you talk more about why that's important and why that matters?

Seth: Sure, well, organic for us, and we were the first to make organic bottled tea back in 1999, and for us, what happened is we kept learning, the more we got exposed to these tea growing communities we saw a few things.

First of all, we came to understand that tea leaves are one of the few agricultural products that aren't rinsed. Meaning that when a tea leaf is picked, unlike a tomato or an apple, you can take it home, you can wash it, when you pick a tea leaf, it's picked, and then it's dried away. If there are any chemicals sprayed on those tea leaves, they're going to, when you brew hot water, when you brew teas in hot water, you're basically washing the chemicals into the tea that you would drink.

Dan: Ick.

Seth: That was one thing to learn. The other thing we saw, of course, is that chemical pesticides and herbicides are compounds that are designed to kill living creatures, that's not us, I'm not trying to be antagonistic, that's just a fact, right-

Dan: Oh, absolutely.

Seth: That's a role of the word "cide" on it, is for killing. From our point of view, even though those compounds are used at very diluted levels, and even though they've been deemed as safe, we do know in the developing world, that the application of those things may not always happen with the same level of consistency we might see in the developed world. Our point of view is, if we don't have to have those involved in our supply chain at all, well, we know that that's a long term better thing, both for the ingredients as well as for the ecosystem. Not to mention the people who are picking the tea leaves, in this case it's generally women, and they're usually really up to their shoulders, or up to their armpits in these bushes, so let's avoid the application of those chemicals at all.

What's neat about a lot of the places we source from, especially in India, there's whole states of India that are organic, meaning they've never gone through the whole industrialized chemical process. What we're able to do is help support this approach to nature, and we know, we've seen vividly, what happens when you have an organic tea garden.

I've been in some gardens that are organic, and I look across the valley. I remember one summer I was there, and there had just been a huge storm, and the non organic tea garden had gone through a big mudslide, and the reason was because the soil was just not as hardy, there wasn't as much biodiversity in the plants. I'm certainly a believer in it, and we do believe in taste, obviously we can't make any claims around that, but we certainly see what the benefits were.

Dan: Oh, absolutely, and let me go one step further, if you are what you eat and you're ingesting something that has a hint, even in a trace, of pesticides and herbicides, well that's getting into your system. Where I'm going with this is that, I think I was actually talking to Chuck about this, I don't remember food allergies being as prevalent when I was a kid. I don't remember people having some of the problems that they're having, digestive, health-wise, and otherwise, and so on. Why that's important is-

Seth: Certainly prevalence of cancer too is another one that I've heard.

Dan: Absolutely, yeah, thank you for that, because everything is ... It seems that if, as consumers are looking toward healthy products to replace medicine, or as a way to augment their medicine and reduce their dependency on doctor visits, this is another reason why it's important. Any other thoughts on that?

Seth: No, no I think you're right. I agree. Look, we've certainly seen the growth, the consumers have a high level of awareness too, and as you know, we can't make any claims around this-

Dan: Sure.

Seth: So we don't, but consumers do recognize ... The other thing I will say that's important about organic, and certainly from Honest Tea's perspective is that it's a government verified seal.

Dan: Yes.

Seth: If we tried to say, this is natural, or this is an environmentally friendly product, that could ring hollow, and it might be viewed as not authentic. Especially when you call yourself Honest Tea, we have to be extremely careful about any claims we make. From our point of view, rather than we try to make a claim, let's just let the government verify the seal.

Dan: Well, it's so important, and to go one step further, it's the customer, the evangelist, and where I'm going with this is that, the traditional, the core natural shopper will read the label, they want to know where their product comes from, they go beyond the four corners of the package, and then try to really understand how that product is produced, how it's made, how ethical the ingredients are, and how it is sourced.

In addition to the organic seal being government approved, that provides so much more credibility, and to leverage that consumer against retailers, and help that retailer understand, that it's that consumer that buys more products in their store, it's that consumer that, not only buys organic, but buys other products, or premium products across the entire store. Therefore, that customer's far more valuable than your average consumer.

Seth: Yeah, and that's also where the growth is too. Consumers are clearly getting. What's new for us, and we've seen the expansion of our business now, so we're not, although we love the natural channel, and certainly the roots and core of our business, it's not the only place where our products are sold, and one of the most exciting developments we saw, just in the past few months, is that our Honest Kids line is now carried at McDonald's, is part of the happy meal. That's not a place where people typically look for organic products, but we're also in chains like Subway, and Wendy's, and Chick-Fil-A. From our point of view these are great ways to democratize organics, to get them into the hands of people who aren't normally, don't think of themselves as organic consumers, but there's certainly a positive halo effect for the restaurant when they can offer organic products like ours.

Dan: Well, it is, you're kind of blessing then, if I can use that terminology lightly, on the fact that they're embracing organics, or embracing your products, and by the way, I was going to talk about this, so thank you for bringing it up, and congratulations for making a splash, getting involved in this.

Seth: Thank you.

Dan: That is so cool, because as consumers are beginning to understand health and wellness, training, or educating young children at the earliest age is where I think the opportunity is to really grow and expand this message around why organic matters.

Seth: Right. Well, and what's neat about that, some of the skeptics of organics will say that, number one, you can't feed the world with organics because it's too expensive and there's not enough supply. What's neat for us about this moment with McDonald's is, obviously one of the largest chains in the world, and so we're carrying the product at the same price point, that for us is just a great way to prove the skeptics wrong.

Dan: Absolutely, and another thing I keep going back to, is that a lot of people believe that organic is a new thing. The reality is, you and I are about the same age, give or take, organic is what we ate when we grew up, organic is what our parents ate, because we didn't know any better, we didn't have all the pesticides.

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: Yeah, so getting into that, it kind of deflates that argument. Any thoughts around that?

Seth: No, we used to say, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus both ate organic.

Dan: I haven't heard that before, but that makes so much sense. If they can do it, we should be doing it, looking after role models. That's funny.

Your other activist projects that you're involved in, Beyond Meat, again, I learned so much after talking to Chuck, how did you get involved in that?

Seth: Yeah, this is a fun one. Well, my family's been vegetarian for 13 years, and had consistently been disappointed in veggie burgers. I used to joke, I still joke, that if the meat industry wanted a strategy to discourage people from becoming vegetarian, the veggie burger would be the perfect strategy, because you eat it once.

Dan: That's funny.

Seth: And you say, okay. Back in 2012 my wife was reading an article in the paper, in the business section, about this company getting started called Beyond Meat, and it hadn't really hit the market yet, but at the time, she said, boy, if this company can do what they aspire to do, that would be ... it happened to be my wife's birthday, she said, that would be the best birthday present ever.

So, I read the article, and read about the CEO, Ethan Brown, talking about his vision for transforming the meat case into the protein case, this idea that instead of a hamburger and chicken breast, it would be, cow protein, chicken protein and plant protein, and the plant protein is just part of the continuum, and the way you'd do that is by creating a product that replicates the sensory, the taste and texture of meat in a way that the plant-based products were not doing.

I literally sent an email to info@beyondmeat.com, and said, hey, this sounds like a really interesting idea, if there's any way I can help, I have some relevant experience. I heard right back from Ethan, and said, well, yeah, we'd love to talk. I ended up becoming a board member and investor, and then Ethan and I got into a regular cadence of weekly check-ins, just wherever I could help I tried to help, and he found it helpful.

Just after Honest Tea graduated into the Coke portfolio and there was less day-to-day oversight of the business, I felt like, well, it would be great if I can still be involved with Honest Tea, but if maybe there's another company, I can help guide its growth.

It's been fun. I do spend half my time with Honest Tea, and half my time with Beyond Meat, and both are mission-driven businesses that are continuing to grow quickly, and certainly having a big impact.

Dan: Beyond Meat is such a unique product, and getting back to what you said, the texture, the flavor profile, et cetera, I remember the original, if you will, veggie burgers were like hockey pucks, and-you had one, it's amazing you had another one. Well, remember tofu when it first came out, that gelatinous glob-

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: Well, yeah, we are a long ways from where we were back then.

Seth: I think Stephen Colbert once described them as bar coasters soaked in MSG.

Dan: That is funny. I haven't heard that before, and that's true, because they had about the same amount of flavor.

Seth: Yeah, yeah.

Dan: Okay, cool. The fact that you're able to work at both companies, so, as you're doing this, what trends are you seeing in the marketplace, and what advice would you have for a young entrepreneur and a brand that's working, again, to carve out their niche and try to move forward?

Seth: Well, there's two big directions I see food moving in, and Honest Tea and Beyond Meat actually, represent both of those directions. One is this moving toward the undoing of food, and that's about simplification of supply chain transparency, and simpler ingredient panels. That's with Honest Tea, where we have just a very low number of ingredients and the organic sourcing.

Then there's the separate stream, which is also growing, which is the redoing of food, and that's what Beyond Meat represents, where you take ingredients and you try to recreate a category, in this case meat, doing it in a way that overcomes some of the shortcomings of the incumbent. With Beyond Meat, our product has no cholesterol, much lighter environmental footprint, and of course no killing of animals and all the other externalities that come with that.

We see both of these growing very quickly, and I think that's where consumers are gravitating as well.

Dan: Absolutely.

Seth: The commonalities, the products have to taste great, they have to have great branding and packaging, that those elements, whether you're undoing or redoing, you don't get a free pass. Consumers are still going to have the expectations they have for the product that we're replacing with. With Beyond Meat, it's got to go great on a grill, it has to char up on a grill, it has to be great with ketchup and mustard. It has to be able to crumble and be used in a taco preparation, or a pasta preparation. The consumers have extreme power and choice, and we can't shortchange them on any of the things they're looking for.

Dan: Glad you mentioned that, and the consumer's always the key objective in every single decision any brand needs to be making, and where I'm going with that, is that brands need to be focused on the consumer, they cannot lose that, their eye on that prize of that consumer-

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: While big brands are spending a lot of money to encourage us or entice us to buy their products. To your point, Seth, it's these small brands, these disruptive brands that are communicating through the value, not only the value outside the package, but the value that they provide to the consumer, and they've got to be able to help that resonate. What advice do you have for a brand that's working with a retailer, how would you recommend that a brand leverage those insights, those core unique properties that they offer, with a retailer to help them get on a shelf?

Seth: I think, you know, it is a different way of building awareness today than it used to be. For us, our marketing in the beginning was just sampling. We just got in the stores, and I probably still have the title of giving out more samples of Honest Tea than anybody, just because, you know, especially in the early days, we just had to have people taste it. You've got to create that awareness.

Today, if we were launching Honest Tea, I'm sure we'd be more reliant on social media, and that's also the case with Beyond Meat, where social media has just been tremendously powerful for creating awareness, and the reason that either sampling or social media, what they have in common is that there's no filter between the consumer and the brand. Meaning that our social media is our consumers telling other consumers about what we're doing.

Dan: Absolutely.

Seth: The sampling, it's no one telling you, here's what the taste is like, it's, taste it, and you'll understand what it's like.

Dan: I love that, because that is so important, absolutely, social media, and as you said, I love the idea that you said, no filtering. You think about the way that big brands communic.

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: In terms of the ad copy, but you're actually providing that in terms of the family, and the friends, and the people that are singing your praises, are evangelizing your product for you.

Seth: Yeah, yeah, let them do that. Exactly.

Dan: Absolutely. There's so much more value, because then at that point, we get back to the authentic thing, that is an authentic message from someone who truly loves your product, and that's how brands build shopper loyalty, and that's how brands need to work with retailers because retailers want more customers in their stores. They need brands that are willing and able to help them drive that traffic in their store, in addition to a little bit of reasonable profit in every category.

Any other thoughts that you'd want to share on that?

Seth: Well, I think many times entrepreneurs think, if I can just get to the shelf I'm good, that's all I need.

Dan: Right.

Seth: Well, just getting to the shelf, that's a start. The other thing, in order to get to the shelf you have to offer the retailer something they don't have. When we went to our first sales call back in 1998, I showed the retailer, this was a division of Whole Foods, I said, "Here's your shelf of iced tea, and here's the calorie profile," and they all basically fell in the same range, and I said, "What we're offering you with Honest Tea is something totally different," and I showed from a calorie perspective we were in a quadrant that was unlike anything the buyer had.

Dan: Yeah.

Seth: Now, what I couldn't prove was whether or not it was going to work, and the buyer recognized that I couldn't guarantee it, but he said, "So, what are you going to do to help make it work?" I said, "I'll come in and do these samplings," which I did, so at least we had a proposal about how we were going to try to help make it work.

I think sometimes the entrepreneur doesn't necessarily recognize all the work. Getting the sale is hard, but then moving up the shelf is hard too. It's all hard, and it takes work all the way through.

Dan: It's brilliant that you're able to do that, and actually that's my secret sauce, that's what I do for a lot of my clients, and where I'm going with that is, to be able to show our retailer what makes your product unique, not the fact that your box is red, or green, or whatever, but to be able to describe those attributes in terms of what drives the consumer to buy your product.

When you were doing this, I imagine you also had an antidote as to why shoppers are choosing the competition, and what their shoppers look like, versus what your shoppers look like. Can you speak a little bit about how you would recommend a brand educate the retailer on how to understand the difference between a trend, let's call it an authentic trend, and maybe a hype?

Seth: Well, you know, in the beginning, of course, we didn't have any data, because we had never sold it anywhere before, so we did have to explain what the unique attributes were, and how we were going to educate them. What these retailers do know, and we've seen obviously with Beyond Meat, is that the consumers are continuing to seek out alternatives, they are looking to move, either towards that healthier, or that undoing or redoing. Just being able to offer something that clearly set positioning, and that proposition was something they saw as welcome.

The buyers certainly have enough of a sense of it. If we were to bring something in, just as an example, let's say we were bringing a burger that may have some healthier properties, but then was using a GMO process, or something the consumers were moving away from, that may be a little bit of a tougher conversation. We'd have to explain what our rationale is for that.

I think you have to be able to show how what you're doing is consistent with the general direction, and like I say, this undoing and redoing is a great big picture frame to talk about what direction you're offering something.

Dan: That makes so much sense. I guess it kind of goes back to that comment that a lot of people say, it's easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, and this point you're asking for permission up front by doing that authentic thing, day one, every time you step out there. Thank you for sharing that, and it's a great way to frame it for any brand listening, because if you do things right…I talked with John Foraker on my last episode. We were we talking about how brands need to be able to do this from day one, and why it's so important to be able to leverage those insights, to have that compelling selling story, and be able to start building around that, rather than going back and someday in the future and trying to reinvent it or change things.

Seth: Yeah, yeah, you got to have that clarity ahead of time. Yeah.

Dan: Absolutely.

Seth: That's also true with respect to the mission. Sometimes people come to me and say, we love what you're doing at Honest Tea, how do we engrain that in our business? I said, well, it's ideal when you can do it when you launch, right-

Dan: Right.

Seth: It's hard to retro-set some of the stuff. Now, it doesn't mean it's not worth trying. We have our original business plan for Honest Tea on our website-

Dan: Oh, you do?

Seth: At honesttea.com. Yeah. You can read that plan, and you'll see very clearly, we have a statement of aspirations for social responsibility, and it was just that, it was aspirations, it was too early to say we were doing anything, because we really didn't have a business, but that was already in the DNA of the business we were creating. It helps drive your culture, and it certainly helps drive your brand when you do that early on.

Dan: So important, so very, very important. Well, thank you for your time. Are there any other insights you'd like to share, and what's next for Seth as you're working with both Honest Tea and Beyond Meat?

Seth: Well, I think clearly scaling these businesses is the charge and the goal. I'm going to Europe later this month, we're launching Honest Tea across 40 markets in Europe-

Dan: Wow.

Seth: Like I said, the guardrails for the brand will certainly drive what we're doing there, but we know there's interest in those markets for organic, and less sweet, and certainly the fair trade elements as well. We'll be looking to see how the consumers respond to that. I believe that those are, the value points of Honest Tea are global in their appeal.

Dan: Absolutely.

Seth: But we'll have a good first run to look at that. Same with Beyond Meat, now we are scaling internationally as well, but we're also looking to expand our product line within the United States. We've received a great response, and so helping consumers understand the proposition, and to get more of them to come and try it, that's key. We've certainly seen really strong repeat sales for the product, and so we're just making sure that we can continue to sustain that and continue to grow, is the goal.

Dan: That's the secret to every brand's success and longevity. Then, of course, giving yourself that extra runway with the social media-

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: That's the strategy every brand needs to follow. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate your insights, and thank you for being such a thought leader in the industry. I know that you guys are going to be a success in Europe, because a lot of people don't realize that they don't have GMO products, they are also very interested in healthy-

Seth: Right.

Dan: In fact, I should just point out really quick, that other countries are more focused on health concerns than we are. They're adopting these things quicker, these attributes these measures quicker than we are.

Seth: Yeah I think that's right, certainly. Yeah, well, it's an exciting time. I will say it's an exciting time to be involved in food. There's, first of all, tremendous opportunity for growth, because consumers' tastes are changing so quickly, and tremendous opportunity for impact as well. There's a lot of work to be done. The health trends in the United States aren't headed in the right direction-

Dan: No.

Seth: One of the indicators I look at is average life expectancy, so, even though there's about 200 countries in the world, the US ranks as 42nd in average life expectancy. That's the case, even though the US is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, with more knowledge of science, and medicine, and nutrition, than any other civilization in history has had. We can do better, we should do better, and any entrepreneur that's focused on helping us do better has a great opportunity for impact, but also for growth.

Dan: Well, and we need to do better. Thank you for saying that. That's the focus of this podcast, bringing in people, like OSC2. I'm going to bring in the Climate Collaborative at some point. Bringing in thought leaders like Chuck, and yourself, and John Foraker and other thought leaders to help further this mission of making our healthier way of life more accessible by getting products on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more consumers.

Seth: Yeah.

Dan: I just want to say, thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on and sharing your insights-

Seth: Sure.

Dan: This has been such a privilege to talk to you and get your thought leadership and your ideas around how to help brands out. Again, thank you for your help-

Seth: Great, yeah.

Dan: And I look forward to our next conversation.

Seth: Yeah, and let me know when it's posted and we'll get it on social media.

Dan: That would be great. In fact, actually, I've got a lot of great strategies around that. I'm so excited about getting this message out in front of so many other people, because as I said, my mission is, if we can help do that by making our healthy way of life more accessible, getting healthy brands on more shelves, that's how we're going to conquer this thing in terms of nutrition, obesity, et cetera.

Seth: Yeah. Great, great.

Dan: By the way, if you ever want, I've got some great insights I would be happy to share with you if you're looking for something to support some of this. This is off the subject of our conversation today, but I've been speaking about this and collecting those insights, and I'm actually sharing them with the Category Management Association right now. I'm doing a four part webinar series where I'm trying to teach the big brands and the big retailers why this stuff matters. So reach out to me at anytime if I can help.

Seth: Great, great.

Dan: Thank you so much for your help, and have a great day.

Seth: Sure, sure. Okay, thanks, you too.

Dan: Thanks Seth, take care, bye.

Seth: Okay, bye-bye.

Dan: I want to thank Seth for coming on today and for sharing his thought leadership, and for sharing his passion for activism. This is such a valuable component in the natural channel, brands giving back, brands looking beyond themselves, wanting to provide products that make consumers feel good about the product, not just because of what's in the package, but what the package stands for, what the brand stands for, and how it helps to give back to our larger community, the planet.

You can learn more about Honest Tea, Beyond Meat, and Coca Cola on the links in the show notes. You can download the show notes at brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session38. Today's freebie is my Turnkey Sales Story Strategies. This free course ties in nicely to what Seth and I talked about. It covers many of the key aspects that we shared. Its focus is on helping you leverage those key insights with retailers to help them better meet the needs of your shopper. Shoppers are looking for more than just the product that's in the package. You can find the course on the show notes on my website, or by going to turnkeysalesstorystrategies.com/growsales.

Thank you again for listening. This podcast is about you and it's for you. Thank you for all your great comments, please let me know what you'd like to hear, who you'd like me to interview on this podcast. What information or insights would you like to see? Please share the podcast with all your friends, anyone that you think could benefit from this. Please subscribe, and if you like it, leave a review on iTunes. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

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Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at brandsecretsandstrategies.com for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at TurnkeySalesStoryStrategies.com/growsales. Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

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