Oprah Winfrey, food entrepreneur
In October of 2015, Oprah Winfrey put her money where her mouth was. She’d had success while using Weight Watchers—losing some 40 pounds—and sent the company’s market value skyward when she announced she’d purchased 6.4 million shares, or a 10 percent stake, for more than $43 million.
Then, her investment tale started to read a little like her lifelong diet story: She gained, she lost, she gained, she lost (along with Weight Watchers’ investors), due in large part to changing consumer attitudes towards dieting. (For an absolutely gutting read on WW’s history and one writer’s eternal quest to figure out what the heck attitude she should have about her weight, don’t miss “Losing it in the Anti-Dieting Age” in New York Times magazine. Ms. O makes an especially wrenching appearance.)
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Winfrey has cast her gazillion-dollar gaze on a new food-related venture: a line of nutritious, refrigerated, heat-and-eat side dishes and soups. As first reported by People magazine, Winfrey’s new product line, “O, That’s Good!” (O, that’s a dowdy name!) will be available in stores this fall, and features foods prepared with the kind of substitutions any lifelong dieter will—for better or worse—find deeply familiar: three cheese pasta “with a twist of butternut squash,” for instance, and garlic mashed potatoes with “a twist of cauliflower.”
“The twist on the cauliflower mashed potatoes, which is really what sparked this whole thing, is me sitting at the table in my own house and whipping up some cauliflowers,” Winfrey told the magazine, adding that she’d never really felt the cauli version of that comfort food staple tasted like the real thing.
Winfrey also said the company won her over with its mission to bring nutritious food to communities that don’t have that option. O, that sounds good! Making cauli-potatoes taste again! Expanding access to microwaveable side dishes and soups! But Winfrey is no accidental entrepreneur. Surely, in addition to feeling inspired by the possibilities embedded in that container of creamy tomato basil soup with added carrots and celery, she felt a twinge of excitement at having made a contribution to an industry that’s expected to bring in $3 trillion in revenue by 2020.
And that would make sense, given Winfrey’s collaborator in the collection—global food company Kraft Heinz. As the industry media outlet Food Processing wrote about big companies like Nestlé and Kraft Foods, “The leading players in the market have been focusing on mergers and partnerships as their key strategies to expand their presence.”
But don’t expect Winfrey, whose annual “favorite things” list regularly includes food, to start talking about peak growth in the worldwide packaged food sector—at least not publicly. Hers, apparently, is a more soul-driven investment. As she told she Entrepreneur in 2016: “The reason I’ve been able to be so financially successful is my focus has never, ever for one minute been money.”