- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

Honest Tea Inc. is on target for healthy growth this year. The Bethesda company has struck a deal with Target Stores for the discount retailer to carry three varieties of its newest plastic-bottled organic teas.

The four-packs of Lori’s Lemon, Black Forest Berry and Peach Oo-La-Long hit store shelves last month.

Next month, 400 7-Eleven stores across the country, including some in the Washington area, also will begin selling the plastic-bottled tea.

“We have a great brand but we have to hit a certain volume in sales,” said Seth Goldman, president and “Tea-EO” of Honest Tea. “If we really want to grow, we need to be able to reach customers in more places.”

The company, which started in 1998, has grown steadily to offer 11 varieties of tea in glass bottles. Those varieties are sold across the country but in limited retailers such as Whole Foods Market, select Giant Food stores, gourmet delis and regional chains that specialize in organic and natural foods.

Company officials realized a glass bottle is a hard sell for some mainstream retailers and began perfecting a plastic bottle last year. It was a natural fit for a company that prides itself on being socially conscious.

When searching for packaging alternatives, the company found that not all plastics were created equal. Some are known to have harmful effects on health and the environment and are difficult to recycle.

But the company found a plastic that was 100 percent recyclable and considered the most environmentally friendly form of fossil-fuel-derived plastic.

The 15.5-ounce plastic bottle debuted in June on Independence Air, which still serves the tea in flight.

Honest Tea this month will make two new flavored teas in the plastic bottle.

Next month, the company will introduce two new non-tea organic drinks in plastic bottles: a limeade and a sports drink.

Honest Tea has no plans to shatter its glass-bottle line. Mr. Goldman said some customers prefer glass. Next month, two new flavors in glass bottles will debut.

“We’re really focused on pushing our brand,” Mr. Goldman said.

Four of the 11 Honest Tea flavors are sold in plastic. In addition to those sold at Target, Green Dragon Tea is also available in plastic. The company also has eight varieties of tea bags.

Last year the company, which has 18 employees, posted about $6 million in sales. Mr. Goldman hopes to hit $8.5 million in sales in 2005.

In other news …

• Home Depot opened its 38th store in Maryland last month on Chrysler Drive in Upper Marlboro. The 115,000-square-foot home-improvement store has a 35,000-square-foot garden center and 139 employees.

• Morton’s, the Steakhouse opened its sixth location in the Washington area last week at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda.

• The Courtyard by Marriott-Embassy Row has undergone a $1.2 million renovation. The hotel at 1600 Rhode Island Ave. in Northwest has refurbished its 156 rooms and its lobby, which includes a working fireplace, free wireless high-speed Internet access and a Starbucks Cafe.

Got news? Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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