In addition to the titles of billionaire, philanthropist, actress, entrepreneur, and producer and director, famed talk show host Oprah Winfrey will now be adding another job description, that of processed food provider.
Winfrey has announced that she is joining forces with international food producer and distributor, Kraft Heinz, to make healthy products available to everyone. The joint venture will be called Mealtime Stories, LLC, and the company’s self-proclaimed goal is to manufacture a unique line of food products that will make “real, nutritious products more accessible to everyone.”
The media maven’s involvement with Weight Watchers gave a major boost to their product sales, and now with Mealtime Stories, refrigerated dishes can expect a similar lift.
Their joint statement makes nutrition the key factor in this new project. The offerings are to be developed by Kraft and at first, will feature precooked refrigerated meals. Through her successful daytime talk show, Winfrey developed a persona that when attached to practically any product whether books or meals, results in significant increases in sales. It was only after her joining the board of Weight Watchers and investing in the company to the tune of a 10 percent stake in 2015 that the shares of the almost defunct company rallied.
It is this special gift that she brings to products that Kraft is trying to take advantage of by capitalizing on the onetime talk show veteran’s marketing skills. As Kea Shea of Bloomberg Intelligence puts it, “She’s shown that she lends credibility to a brand,” adding that if Winfrey is looking to invest in this market, her involvement can be an essential part of her success.
A Shared History
Although Weight Watchers is not involved in the Mealtime project, Heinz at one time owned the weight-loss company. Through Kraft, Winfrey has made known her intention of donating 10 percent of the profits of the new venture to food charities.
Heinz owned Weight Watchers for several years until its sale to the private investment company, Artal, for $735 million. In 2015, Heinz merged with Kraft Foods in a deal orchestrated by Warren Buffet, creating the third-largest food and beverage company in North America.
In December of last year, Weight Watchers shares jumped close to 20 percent when Winfrey announced that she had lost 40 pounds (18 kilos) using the company’s program. This was just one more example of a company benefiting from Winfrey’s involvement.
This next step for Winfrey fits in with other efforts of hers, such as applying for a broad range of trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office. She has included a broad range of grocery products, including a line of frozen meals, under the name “Oprah’s Kitchen.”
This is not the first time that Winfrey has partnered with corporate food manufacturers having joined with Starbucks in 2014 to create Teavana Oprah Chai, and then in 2015 purchasing 10 percent of Weight Watchers, causing the company’s stocks to climb 170 percent and creating $700 million in stock value making her $110 million richer. She presently has a net worth of $2.9 billion.