BETHESDA, MD. — Eat the Change, a business co-founded by Honest Tea creator Seth Goldman, has raised $14.5 million to set up and scale production of Just Ice Tea. The new bottled tea brand was born out of The Coca-Cola Co.’s plans to phase out Honest Tea, announced earlier this year.
Mr. Goldman and Barry Nalebuff founded organic, fair trade, “just a tad sweet” Honest Tea in 1998. Coca-Cola took a 40% investment stake in 2008 and fully acquired the business in 2011. Last year, Mr. Goldman debuted plant-based snack brand Eat the Change in partnership with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn.
This past May, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said it would cease production of Honest Tea at the end of the year to focus on its other tea brands. Less than two weeks later, Mr. Goldman posted on his company’s website that he, Mr. Nalebuff and Mr. Mendelsohn would add an organic, fair trade certified bottled tea line to the Eat the Change portfolio, and by the end of June, he shared another post unveiling plans for Just Ice Tea. The name, he said, is a nod to the set of working standards the company aspires to support, as well as the simplicity of the ingredients used in its recipes.
“You will taste the essence of the tea, and not much more,” Mr. Goldman said. “And our drinks will be either ‘just sweet enough’ or ‘unsweetened’ to accentuate the natural flavor. Of course, Just Ice Tea won’t, and doesn’t claim to, address most of the injustices in the world. But we know the fair trade and organic approach creates better economic opportunities for our partners and less damage to the planet.”
The funding was led by the Collaborative Fund with participation from S2G Ventures and Honest Tea stakeholders including Mr. Nalebuff, distributors, suppliers and more.
Eat the Change will continue producing its existing product lines, which include organic jerky made with bruised or irregular portobello and crimini mushrooms, and a children’s vegetable snack based on dehydrated carrots and fruit juice. A carrot-based snack for adults will debut soon, too.Just Ice Tea is expected to hit store shelves in the coming months, according to the company.