Meet Seth Goldman, the Co-Founder of Honest Tea, Chair of Beyond Meat, and Chief Change Officer at Eat the Change

Bessie LiuProfiles

Seth Goldman (right) with co-founder of Eat the Change, Spike Mendelsohn (left). Image courtesy of Eat the Change.

When Seth Goldman first graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a Bachelor's Degree in Government, he did not imagine he would one day be a prominent figure in the food industry.

Goldman worked as a Deputy Press Secretary for Senator Lloyd Bentsen for three years after completing his undergraduate studies before pursuing a graduate degree in private and public management at Yale University. There, his love for food began to grow alongside his interest in environmentalism.

"One of the really amazing things about food is it's the only experience we have as humans that uses all five senses," Goldman told The Org. "The other reason I'm passionate about food is because it impacts our health, what we eat is what we become and it directly impacts the planet, what you eat also represents your climate footprint."

It started with thirst

Goldman founded Honest Tea in 1998, three years after completing his master's degree at Yale. At the time he was looking for something to satisfy his thirst, but could not find an off-the-shelf product that fit what he was looking for. Seeing the potential to develop a totally new product, Goldman reached out to his business school professor, Barry Nalebuff, and hasn’t looked back since.

The duo wanted to create the best-tasting non-sweet tea in the market. By 2000, just two years after launching, Honest Tea made $1.9 million in sales revenue, becoming the fastest-growing bottled tea brand in natural food stores.

What ultimately helped grow Honest Tea was its partnership with Coca-Cola in 2011. After receiving access to multiple distribution channels, the business grew exponentially, entering over 100,000 stores between 2011 and 2016.

By the end of 2019, Goldman decided to step down from his position as the company's TeaEO to pursue new projects.

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Seth Goldman. Image courtesy of Eat the Change.

Serving with a purpose

As a person who deeply cares for the environment and animal rights, Goldman often felt that culinary options were limited for vegetarians. So in 2013, he became involved with Beyond Meat.

"We'd go to a restaurant or go to a friend's house and just felt like whatever was served to the vegetarians was the consolation prize, it was never as good," Goldman told The Org. "So when I read about this company getting started in California that was seeking to replicate the taste and texture of meat using plants I said, ‘Well, that's a company that needs to succeed, and I reached out to offer to help."

From November 2015 to February 2020, Goldman served as an Executive Chair of the Beyond Meats Board, where he was actively involved in assisting CEO Ethan Brown with international expansion initiatives. He currently sits as Chairman of the Board.

"I'm excited to see the brand grow into quick serve restaurants; we've announced a partnership with McDonald’s, with Yum! Brands -- which includes KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. We also announced a partnership with Pepsi, launching other plant based products," Goldman said.

Democratizing a healthier diet

As of 2021, Goldman has been shifting most of his attention towards Eat the Change, his new venture with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn where he serves as the Cheif Change Officer. Eat the Change was founded to make healthier diets more democratized and accessible. As a recent vegetarian turned vegan, Goldman wanted to create plant-based products to minimize their environmental footprint.

"People's diets are moving towards what we call snackification, which means that people are eating fewer sit down meals and more snacks. So we wanted to find a way to create some planet-friendly snacks," Goldman said.

After learning that mushrooms were one of the most sustainable crops to grow and that a lot of mushrooms don't make it to the retail shelf (either for being oversized, undersized, or bruised), Goldman and his team decided to buy all the leftover mushrooms and turn them into jerky.

"We wanted to find a snack that would be delicious but also sustainable," Goldman said. "Mendelsohn is this wonderfully creative chef, when you give a chef a mushroom, it's a great palette to work with because it absorbs all the flavor, and so for us, that was a great first product."

Eat the Change's organic mushroom jerky recipe avoids using corn, wheat, soy, rice, potatoes and sugar cane, which Goldman says are responsible for almost 60% of all agricultural production.

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Sea salt and pepper mushroom jerky. Image courtesy of Eat the Change.

The day-to-day

On a day-to-day basis, the executive maintains a healthy work-life balance by engaging in regular physical exercise as part of his daily morning routine. To reduce his carbon footprint, Goldman bikes to work.

Once he arrives at his office, Goldman makes it a priority to clean out his inbox and address any urgent issues that may have arisen overnight. He also organizes regular check-ins with all his direct reports.

For people who hope to thrive in the food tech space, Goldman has two pieces of advice. "You have to be very comfortable with selling," he said. "And you've got to make sure your products are different, and it stands out."

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