brand extensions

Honest Tea Heats Up Cocoa Wars

Posted by Dale Buss on March 11, 2011 11:30 AM

It’s only been a few days since Honest Tea became fully a part of Coca-Cola, but already the company’s “TeaEO,” CEO Seth Goldman, is moving on to his next agenda item.

That would be introducing a brand extension called Honest CocoaNova, a completely new kind of product for the maker of organic teas and “ades.” 

The reason it's launching a new product line now is simple: the brand needs to keep innovating and evolving, says its founder. “We continue to look for new ideas,” Goldman told brandchannel.

There’s been a lot of interest in how Goldman’s Bethesda, Md.-based startup would become part of the giant Coke machine and still work the new-product magic that has allowed Honest Tea to triple its annual sales, to $72 million, since Coca-Cola first bought in three years ago.

CocoaNova is meant to become part of the answer when it rolls out next month under the positioning, “Cocoa as you’ve never known it.”

CocoaNova contains flavanols — the better-for-you compounds in cocoa — without the cocoa butter that is used to make chocolate. So CocoaNova has lots of antioxidants, like many of Honest’s teas and other drinks.

“We brew it like tea,” Goldman told us this week. “It has the cocoa flavor but it doesn’t have the fat of chocolate. It’s got a nice taste to it, but it’s low in calories. It’s really a new functional category.”

“To the extent that consumers have a positive health association with dark chocolate, that’s where this product delivers,” he added.

In fact, Honest Tea developed CocoaNova with Hershey, which has been competing with Mars to come up with healthful applications of cocoa components. Coca-Cola knew about the arrangement and blessed it, Goldman said.

As Goldman wrote in a recent blog post addressing the brand's next chapter, "we take inspiration from a Chinese proverb printed underneath our bottle caps that also appears on the front wall of our Bethesda office, as both a greeting, and a warning, 'Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it.'"

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