Just Ice Tea | #6

Eat the Change

It’s been a busy summer.

On May 23 we learned that Coca-Cola was discontinuing Honest Tea. After two weeks of mourning, we announced on June 6 we were going back into the bottled tea business. On September 6 we sold our first bottle of Just Ice Tea at a PLNT Burger in New York City. And tomorrow we will be officially introducing the line & sharing some of the more than 1,000 retail launch partners.

So how did we manage to mobilize from the Go Decision to Launch in three months?

First, we have to be honest. This wasn’t a start-up – it was more of a jump-start.  Though Eat the Change had not sold a single bottle of tea, we had a team up & running. And not just any team – a 12-person team that included six people with more than 100 years of tea-making & selling experience.

That said, it’s still a fast launch by any standard.  Some large beverage companies I know think 18 months is fast.  So here are five keys to making this happen so quickly.

  1. A talented & passionate team – Even though our team was experienced with launching tea, they were passionate, motivated & committed to an aggressive launch. Coca-Cola’s decision to discontinue their beloved brand proved to be an extra source of motivation.
  2. Strong relationships at every part of the supply chain - From tea garden pluckers to retail buyers, we had developed trusting & transparent partners.. Our tea suppliers knew we would only consider organic & fair trade tea leaves.&Our bottling plant knew we work on aggressive timelines & were willing to schedule a pilot run before we had all the ingredients in the building..Our grocery store buyers knew we could execute a national launch even though ETC had never sold a bottle of tea.
  3. Seamless communication – Daily calls with our team & often with our partners kept everyone in the loop all the time. Remote workplaces weren’t an issue because we were constantly texting, teaming & phoning. The rule was “overcommunicate all the time.”
  4. Confidence & Muscle Memory – We took to heart Leonard Bernstein’s quote “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” Whereas a start-up might spend weeks pondering certain decisions, our experience & the tight timeframe was an advantage. A Sept. launch required final label designs by July 10.. There was no wiggle room & we stuck to it.
  5. And finally, #Karma – the reason our partners were so responsive is because we treated them right throughout the Honest Tea relationship & thereafter. For several of our partners, I had begun the relationship with the founder & was now dealing with the next generation. One even said, “It’s an honor for me to continue the legacy my father started with you.”  Extended payment terms & other forms of support helped us race to launch. If we had squeezed our vendors or created unbalanced relationships, they wouldn’t have been eager to work with us again.

And now I’m happy to announce our 6th & last variety is a green tea with mint.  One of Honest Tea’s top-sellers since 1998 was Moroccan Mint, so longtime fans will be happy to know we haven’t strayed far from the original formula. Enjoy!


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