This is why celebrities should never launch their own food products
If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that the world is more obsessed than ever with food. People are prepared to spend hours staring wistfully at screens, salivating over delicious looking-plates and patrolling streets for the next tasty treat. You can be rich or poor, but everyone is now some form of foodie. It’s little surprise, therefore, that celebrities too are muscling in on the act. Whether for financial gain, or because of genuine passion, recent years have seen a slew of celebrity food and drink products hitting our shelves. Some aren’t bad. Some, unsurprisingly, are awful. Here are 13 of the most intriguing celebrity food product launches to date.
Prior to recent drugs test controversies, Maria Sharapova was one of the most beloved names in tennis. Having grunted her way to five grand-slam titles and a host of other sporting prizes, it was clear that the Russian star needed to spread her wings. Sharapova had ambitions beyond the tennis court. Revealing a hidden sweet tooth, she set about establishing “Sugarpova” in 2012 - a business solely dedicated to selling candy and chocolate. So passionate is Sharapova about the project that, for a time, she even considered changing her name legally to “Sugarpova”.
Probably the most popular route taken by celebrities looking to break into the food and drink sector is through booze. It’s far easier to look cool and sophisticated whilst slowly swilling a tumbler than it is chopping onions. One of the most recent additions to the list of celebrity drink purveyors is Canadian rapper Drake. In 2015, the artist unleashed his Virginia Black American whiskey on customers across the world. Despite Drake’s presumed lack of whiskey making expertise, the drink has nonetheless been described as having some “nice fruity or cherry notes”. He may have started from the bottom, but he can now claim to be a half decent distiller.
Aligning yourself with a drinks brand conveys a certain sense of sophistication. Years of cinematic heroes and heroines nonchalantly sipping at vodka martinis have conditioned us to think of booze as a classy necessity in high society. Names like “Macallan” and “Dom Perignon” are streamlined, smooth, elegant and restrained. Hypnotiq Sparkle by Khloe Kardashian is none of these things. A blend of fruit juice, cognac and white wine, this bright blue bubbling abomination looks more like radioactive mouthwash than something you’d sip surreptitiously at a bar. If you ever wanted proof that alcohol is not cool, this is surely it.
One of the biggest innovations to grace the food and drink sector in the last few years has been the advent of meal kit delivery services. Businesses like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron specialise in sending customers pre-packaged and portioned ingredients that can be cooked at home. The sector is booming and now has celebrity backing from Queen Bey herself. Partnering with nutritionist Marco Bergen, Beyoncé recently launched 22 days nutrition - a vegan meal delivery service focused on helping people make “better nutritional choices”. Unconfirmed rumours claim that packs come complete with a CD for her new single, All the Single Lettuce.
Not to be outdone by the other half of music’s biggest power couple, Jay-Z decided to make his own foray into the world of food and drink. His champagne focused venture, however, has proven to be considerably more contentious than his wife’s vegan parcels. Jay-Z released Armand de Brignac, or 'Ace of Spades', after a spat with luxury champagne brand Cristal. The rapper accused the business’ CEO of racism after a controversial interview in The Economist and promptly launched his own alternative into the marketplace. Who will triumph in this battle of the bubblies remains to be seen.
In probably one of the earliest cases of celebrity food endorsement, Hollywood heart throb and acting legend Paul Newman launched his own brand of salad dressing in 1982. Using homemade recipes that he used to distribute to his friends and family, Newman’s approach was something of a novelty in the sector. The entire Newman’s Own business is set up as a non-profit foundation, with all excess monies donated to various charitable organisations. It just goes to show that not every celebrity endorsement is done out of cynicism.
We’ve already established that many high-end alcohol brands focus on understatement when it comes to their name. Often, a single word or location will do, providing a sense of place and historical context to would-be customers. Energy drinks, by contrast, are usually a little more in your face. However, well-known businesses like Red Bull and Monster pale into insignificance when compared to the creation of St. Louis rapper Nelly. The musician’s signature concoction, “Pimp Juice”, could claim to have the least appetising name ever. We just hope it’s not made from real pimps.
Sometimes it’s not one specific product that inspires a celebrity venture into the hospitality sector. Actor Jessica Biel proved that celebrities can show a head for business with the launch of her restaurant, Au Fudge, in 2016. Designed to be child-friendly creative space where adults can also enjoy a glass of fizz, the restaurant is proving a hit with the chic parents of West Hollywood.
In rare cases, it’s love rather than money that inspires a celebrity venture. This is certainly true for acting royal George Clooney, who recently launched new tequila brand Casamigos alongside friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman. The booze was introduced at a huge bash in Ibiza, which featured an eclectic array of celebrity guests including Cindy Crawford and James Blunt. The booze has been made with the help of a master distiller in Mexico and reportedly delivers a “smooth taste” and “no burn”.
While some celebrity endorsements can claim to be passion projects, the vast majority are anything but. This is certainly true for the suspiciously branded “Heidi’s Fruit Flirtations”. Featuring a cartoon version of the German supermodel plastered on the front and with art that looks like it belongs in a bad 70’s comic, these supposedly “healthy” sweets certainly raise a few eyebrows. With a press release that describes Klum’s passion for fruit gummies in graphic detail, this is one of the more perplexing celebrity product launches.
Healthy living advocate Gwyneth Paltrow has perhaps become more notorious for her off-screen wellbeing tips than she has for her acting. Her infamous nutritionist hub Goop is regularly lambasted from all quarters for its bogus products and dodgy advice. From sex bark to yoghurt cleanses, Goop is a constant source of ill-conceived celebrity pseudo-science. However, for all the claims about colonic irrigation and cabbage wrapped dumplings, the site is now bigger than ever before. Who are we to judge.
As a general rule, male rappers tend to align themselves with uber-masculine projects. As Nelly has already proved with his “Pimp Juice”, health is usually a secondary consideration. This makes 50 Cent’s partnership with Vitamin Water even more perplexing. The special “Formula 50” production is flavoured with grape and features a bold microphone-adorned crest on the cap. Furthermore, Coca-Cola then bought Vitamin Water from Glacéau - earning 50 Cent around $100 million. However, this wasn't enough - it seems - to stop the rapper from filing for bankruptcy in 2015.
The 80s were golden era for strange celebrity endorsements. From Muhammed Ali’s endorsement of cockroach traps to Eric Clapton’s alliance with beer giants Anhuser-Busch, businesses everywhere were rushing to join forces with the big names of the day. Perhaps the most famous foodie partnership was Mr T’s union with Quaker Oats. Fresh from appearances in the A-Team and Rocky III, a box of cereal is probably the last place you’d expect to find Mr T, and yet there he was in all his bejewelled glory. When it comes to celebs, there’s little point trying to guess where they might wind up.
Despite the varying successes and failures, what this list proves is that there is not only an appetite for celebrity food endorsements, but that they show no sign of going anywhere. We can only hope that future celebrities adopt a Paul Newman approach to business, rather than exploring the possibility of more “Pimp Juice”.