SeanReadsTheNews doesn't often feature contributed columns as we mostly stick to reporting by professional journalists, but Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea, whose bottle size falls .9 oz. over Mayor Bloomberg's new legal limit, had such an inspired piece on today's Wall Street Journal editorial page, we're making an exception.
What to do if you are a soft drink maker who picked the size of your standard bottle based on what your shipper had in stock when you launched and suddenly find that the Mayor of New York City has made your product illegal?
If you're PR team is on the ball, you turn that conundrum into a shot at one of the hardest pieces of media real estate to crack.
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. 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.
We initially went with 16.9 oz. (which is 500 milliliters) because it is a standard size that our bottle supplier had in stock at the time. We subsequently invested several hundred thousand dollars for 16.9 oz. bottle molds. Is 16.9 ounces the perfect size? Who knows? As a beverage marketer, we willingly submit to the unforgiving judgment of the market. What we did not anticipate was an arbitrary decision to constrain consumer choice.
The article goes on to explain the lengths and costs undergone by Goldman get Honest Tea back into compliance (his paragraphs on why you can't just put .9 oz less in each bottle were particularly striking).
We admire the PR team for thinking of this approach and for coming up with a such a compelling way to make real the consequences of government over-reach. Too many people read about Bloomberg's ban and thought "anyone who orders those tubs of soda at the movies deserves what happens to them," but this column puts a human face on the economic impact of the decision.