Honest Tea Might Have A Bloomberg Problem

Jul 23, 2012 4:01 pm

Are the iced tea maker's bottles too big for NYC?

Honest Tea's founder explains that his company's 16.9 ounce packaging is making the "just a tad sweet" teas an unfair target.
Honest Tea's founder explains that his company's 16.9 ounce packaging is making the "just a tad sweet" teas an unfair target.
 

Like a lot of people in the food and beverage industry in NYC, we're feeling conflicted over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed "Soda Ban." As the New York Board of Health gets set to conduct a public hearing on the proposal to ban sugary drinks of over 16 ounces tomorrow morning, the two sides are heating up the PR campaign. On the one hand, sugar-packed soft drinks do contribute to the obesity epidemic that Bloomberg is trying to fight, but there are some flaws in the proposal that could unfairly target some companies as well as retailers.

Bloomberg appeared this morning, fully confident that stores, movie theaters, sports venues and restaurants will soon be banned from selling sugary extra-large beverages. “Compared to smoking, this is an easy battle to win and nothing’s going to stop this thing," he said, according to The New York Observer. In The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, Honest Tea founder and "TeaEO" Seth Goldman wrote an op-ed that explains why his company is against the proposed ban: It'll mean that Honest Tea's top-selling products would be wiped from store shelves in NYC.

"Under the proposed changes to Article 81 of the NYC Health Code, food-service establishments would not be able to sell packages larger than 16 ounces for drinks that have more than 25 calories per eight-ounce serving," Goldman writes. "Honest Tea's top-selling item is our organic Honey Green Tea, which has 35 calories per eight-ounce serving and is in a 16.9 oz. bottle. We label 70 calories on the front of the package so consumers know what's in the full bottle."

Honest Tea would appear to be one company that gets screwed in the process of a well-meaning fight; this isn't jacked-up sugary cola they're peddling. But we're sure Bloomberg — not exactly Mr. Compassion — would consider the tea company a casualty in the war against obesity.

Which might be a decent argument, but amid all the reactive reporting to the soda ban, we've yet to see anything that adequately explains how this ban is effective if consumers can circumvent the law simply by purchasing two smaller drinks. Which of course is wasteful and stupid. Or why just soda — why not super-sized French fries or other dreadfully unhealthy foods and drinks? There are other problems with the ban, and while we generally agree that people don't need to be slurping down giant Dr. Peppers, we'd like to see a bit more reason in the Mayor's argument other than "Sugar Bad!"

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