Honest Tea’s Index Results Might Not Surprise You, but It Gets You Thinking—About Honest Tea


Honest Tea has spread research for its National Honesty Index from sea to shining sea this year, and some of the results will surprise no one: Washington, D.C., was the “least honest” in the measurement, while laid-back Alabama and Hawaii tied for “most honest.”

How was “honesty” measured? As in earlier versions of the annual test, Honest Tea set up unattended kiosks stocked with its beverages and offered them for $1 on the honor system. For 10 days in July, Honest Tea tested 61 total locations throughout the country and collected data on how many people paid for the beverages—as well as, curiously, participants’ characteristics such as gender, hair color, and whether they were wearing hats.

Only 80 percent of D.C. residents paid for their beverage. “The results are what they are,” Seth Goldman, “TeaEO” of Honest Tea, told brandchannel, acknowledging that company headquarters in Bethesda, Md., is guilty of being in the Beltway. “There’s no spin to them. We’re sharing them.”[more]

Goldman acknowledged that, helping with the experiment in D.C., he had biked to the Metro station in Bethesda to ride the train to Dupont Circle. When he returned to Bethesda, his bike was gone. “That shows that nine out of 10 people may be honest, but it’s that eight to 10 percent you need locks for,” Goldman quipped.

And, he noted, with a respectable 92 percent showing in the National Honesty Index, Bethesda outshined Baltimore, whose lesser number brought the state average for Maryland down to 89 percent, one of the worst showings.

By contrast, 100 percent of unwitting test subjects in Alabama and Hawaii paid for the drinks. Women were more honest than men, 95 percent to 91 percent, the same as in last year’s more limited test. Blonds were most honest this year. And so on. In Gotham, staffers of the New York Observer participated and confessed that Honest Tea proved like a “conscience in a bottle.”

In any event, Goldman likes the National Honesty Test as a promotional vehicle for Honest Tea, an outfit now owned by Coca-Cola that has a promising new zero-calorie soda line, big new foodservice contracts and other points of growth. It’s tag line isn’t “Refreshingly Honest” for nothing.

“It’s something that keeps on giving, because every year we find a way to give it a new lens and tell the story with a new perspective,” he said. “It was quite an undertaking to do all those states in a 10-day time period. But it’s a story that can be shared in all 50 states, and every story is a different narrative.”