Better-for-you brands need to coax consumers to make healthier choices via incremental changes, says Honest Tea co-founder

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Better-for-you brands need to coax consumers to make healthier choices through incremental change, says Honest Tea co-founder
Better-for-you brands and policy makers who want to redirect mainstream Americans to healthier food and beverage choices likely will be more successful if they meet the consumer first where they are and then guide them through change incrementally, according to Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman.

“We can’t expect [consumers] to make a huge or major change,”​ even if it would dramatically improve their health, he told a group of manufacturers, nutritionists, policy advocates and other stakeholders gathered at the headquarters of Partnership for a Healthier America in Washington, DC, this week.

The “carefully curated”​ group was brought together by the non-profit to discuss upcoming recommendations for the 2020 Dietary Guidelines, which for the first time in more than 40 years will include recommendations for children aged 0 to 2 years.

Goldman explained to the group that while offering children healthier options is both admirable and necessary to combat obesity and diet-related chronic disease, manufacturers and policy makers cannot expect children – or their caregivers – to immediately embrace healthier options that sacrifice taste and experience.

“You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of good,”​ he said, explaining that “while kids should drink water or 10-calorie drinks it is not practical for where their current palate and current behavior is.”

Rather, he said, a stepping-stone approach is more practical to change consumers’ palates and behavior – similar to what Honest Tea did when it launched its Honest Kids juice beverage brand in 2006.

He explained that when Honest Tea decided to make a healthier juice drink for children it wanted to offer a beverage that “was just sweet enough that kid wouldn’t reject it,”​ and even if they were not thrilled with it “they would drink it and then over time they would actually accept it.”

For Honest Kids that “sweet spot” was 42% juice and 40 calories per serving.

By meeting consumers where they are, the brand has also made strides in reaching its other mission of “democratizing organic,”​ which Goldman said includes making healthier drinks accessible and easily available to everyone – including people who might not actively seek them.

The brand has done this in part by distributing Honest Kids through large quick service restaurants, including Subway, Wendy’s and McDonald’s.

“These chains are certainly not organic destinations and they may not necessarily be health destinations, but when we can be on the menu offered in line and at the same price point”​ as more traditional options that have 80 calories that means the brand can help “remove more than a billion calories from the American diet and especially the diet of younger people who are still developing their palates,”​ Goldman said.

Targeting teens

Proud of the progress the brand is making with young children, Goldman said the company has a new line of beverages designed to “bridge the gap between Honest Kids and Honest Tea”​ and appeal to teenagers and older children.

“At Honest Tea we have much lower or zero calorie [options] but we also recognize that not everybody and every teen is going to want to go there right away, so we are going to have to help them along the continuum,”​ Goldman said.

With that in mind, he said, “We do have a line of juice drinks that are the same 42% juice we put in the [Honest Kids line] but in 10 ounces, and so we got that into some convenience stores and into some schools as well.”

What should kids drink?​​​​

Kids are drinking less milk and less juice as they get older. But what are they drinking instead? And what’s the sweet spot for sugar levels in beverages that kids enjoy & parents can feel good about? Find out at the 2019 FoodNavigator-USA FOOD FOR KIDS summit​​​​ in Chicago. November 18-20.

Checkout the latest speakers​​​​ and register HERE.​​


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