On December 5th 2022, SOM’s Net Impact chapter had the pleasure of hosting alumnus Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea, co-founder of Eat the Change, and executive chairman of Beyond Meat.
Goldman’s talk was the kick-off event to SOM’s second annual Social Impact Week. During Social Impact Week, Net Impact works with other student organizations to host speakers, events, and workshops focused on how businesses can create positive change in the global community. The week-long event facilitates discussions, attention, and awareness amongst students regarding their collective ability to integrate social good into their careers.
Goldman was the perfect first speaker of the week, because he founded SOM’s Net Impact chapter in 1995. He has devoted his career towards using food businesses to improve global health. During the event, he explained how his upbringing informed his career-long focus on social impact. Both his parents were professors who consistently modeled ethical behavior, which led him to develop a strong moral compass and a desire to solve difficult problems.
At SOM, Goldman sought ways to use business to make the world a better place. During a competitive strategy class, he noticed the gap that existed in the beverage market: there were almost no low-calorie, low-sugar beverages available in the U.S. This realization sparked the idea for Honest Tea, which he launched after graduation.
Goldman discussed the highs and lows that founders face on the start-up journey. For example, he explained how his decision to sell Honest Tea to Coke in 2011 expanded the brand’s impact, even though it was not the path he had envisioned. But in this decision he remained true to his mission to bring a healthy, low-calorie tea to more consumers. He did express disappointment that Coke recently decided to discontinue Honest Tea, but was still positive about the overall results: Goldman cited the numerous impacts of Honest Tea, including Honest Kids’ inclusion in McDonald’s Happy Meals, which has reduced American children’s caloric intake by over 1 billion calories.
Throughout his talk, Goldman expressed excitement about the future of healthy, plant-based foods. He lauded the expansion in product variety and the increase in sales that plant-based meat has enjoyed in recent years. He also detailed his continued contributions to the space, including launching a new tea brand “Just Ice Tea,” developing a variety of veggie-based snacks for adults and children, and his continued leadership of Beyond Meat. Goldman ended his talk by explaining that successful development of heathy food begins with focusing on taste. In this way, he hopes to develop foods that make individuals across America and across the world choose healthier diets.