On October 30, 2019, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series invited Seth Goldman, the co-founder and Tea-EO emeritus of Honest Tea and Executive Chair of Beyond Meat, for an intimate conversation with Robert Hisaoka ’79 at The Clarice. Read on for one student’s insights on Goldman’s talk.
by: Allison Criswell ’21
In a world where obesity is on the rise and Mother Nature is on the fall, “healthy and sustainable” has become something of a societal trend. Eating clean and taking care of the earth has never been cooler. But when it comes to our taste buds, we don’t like to make sacrifices unless the alternative is just as delicious. Lucky for us, Seth Goldman, Co-Founder of Honest Tea and Executive Chair of Beyond Meat, has spent the last two decades making it possible to be an environmentalist and a health nut without giving up flavor.
Some background on the companies…
Honest Tea started as an idea after a run in Central Park, when Goldman couldn’t find a tasty beverage that wasn’t loaded with sugar. “These drinks have different names and labels, but really they’re all the same. High calories, high-fructose corn syrup – there needs to be another option.” He began brewing organic, low-sugar teas with his professor, Barry Nalebuff, and once they had concocted the perfect beverage, it was brought to Whole Foods’ shelves to be tested out. Years later, Honest Tea is under the Coca-Cola Company brand and has made its way into fast food chains, children’s lunch boxes… You name it. Honest Tea’s mission is multifaceted yet simple: promote health and wellness for all people, reduce our collective environmental footprint, and support global organic tea farmers through fair trade. Goldman says the beauty of it is that regardless of profits, the company is improving the world.
In 2013, Goldman joined Beyond Meat as Executive Chair, wholeheartedly supporting the first ever plant-based burger with the texture and flavor of beef. He went vegetarian when his oldest son urged the family to consider cutting meat from their diets. Ironically, the 13 year old’s Bar Mitzvah reading came from the section of the Torah that discusses kosher preparation of meat, where the life of the animal, or the blood, must be cleansed from the meat before consumption. “But if you don’t want to eat the life, just don’t eat the animal,” his son told them. Although the Goldmans did make the change, it was for ethical and environmental reasons, not because they didn’t like the taste of meat. So when they tried Beyond Meat for the first time, it was an eye-opening experience. You no longer needed to take the life of a sentient being to have a great burger (that even “bleeds”), and what’s more, it uses over 90% less land and water. Goldman believes that one day, plant-based meat will be the norm.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs out there, Goldman’s message is this: Find out what you care about and don’t put it aside for later. The best work, he says, is “being paid to do what you would pay to do.” There has never been more of a need for innovative ideas. One of his favorite Chinese proverbs can be found under the bottle caps of Honest Tea: “If we don’t change the direction we’re headed, we’ll end up where we’re going.” It’s tempting to take the secure job straight out of college, but if you want to make a difference in the world, there is no better time than right now.
Allison Criswell is a third year undergraduate student at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. After working with socially conscious businesses in Ecuador this past summer through Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps, she developed a strong interest in entrepreneurship. She believes that mission-driven ventures will continue to play a uniquely valuable role in creating positive change.