Meghan Markle has given the trendy oat latte brand she invested in a boost, sharing a glowing review of the brand’s drinks on its glossy website alongside a grinning photo of herself and the company’s CEO.
The Duchess of Sussex, 42, confirmed in December 2020 that she had invested an undisclosed sum in Clevr Brands, which has a range of lattes that come in powder form.
And around the time, the former senior royal used her connections to promote the company, which was founded in January 2019 and is run by CEO Hannah Mendoza, by sending a basket of products to her neighbour Oprah Winfrey, who shared the products online.
While the Duchess has visited the company, sharing a short video from her trip on Instagram earlier this year, which featured footage of herself sipping on a cup of the hot stuff, she has been fairly silent about the investment over the last three years.
But now she has shared a glowing five-star review of the line. Posting a photo of herself embracing CEO Hannan Mendoza, the former cable actress wrote of the range: ‘One of my favourite ways to start and end each day.’
Meghan Markle (pictured, left) shared a photo of herself on the Clevr Brands website, alongside the company’s CEO Hannah Mendoza (pictured, right)
The former cable actress signed off the five-star review using her royal title, writing ‘Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’
She signed off the post using her royal title, writing Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Clevr is based in Santa Barbara, California. Meghan came across it by apparently sampling its superfood coffee in 2017, when the founder was selling it at a pop-up store before creating the at-home blend she now sells.
It also happens to be based near Montecito, where Harry and Meghan live.
In a statement to Fortune confirming the investment in 2019, Meghan said: ‘This investment is in support of a passionate female entrepreneur who prioritizes building community alongside her business.
‘I’m proud to invest in Hannah’s commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and has a holistic approach to wellness. I believe in her and I believe in her company.’
Mendoza confirmed Meghan’s investment, saying: ‘Entrepreneurs need funding, but they also need advisers who care deeply about what they are building. I’m grateful to have found both in the Duchess of Sussex.
‘Her passion for what we’re creating is palpable, and I couldn’t imagine a more aligned partnership. We’re excited for the road ahead.’
Meghan’s backing of the brand marked her first public investment since she and Harry left royal life in 2020 to pursue a private life and seek ‘financial independence’ from the royal family.
A message shared by CEO Hannah Mendoza on the Clevr Blends website talks about the company’s products and mission
According to the Clevr Brands website, the company is a ‘mission-driven, women-led wellness brand based in coastal California’. Hannah, the CEO, formerly worked at a different superfood snack company. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 but it’s unclear how old she is.
A post written by co-founder Hannah says: ‘We had humble beginnings—my co-founder and I started a pop-up adaptogenic coffee bar in 2016.
‘We traveled around the US, waxing lyrical about the magic of plants. People listened, they felt better in their bodies and minds, and we created Clevr to make those feelings easier to reach.’
The note adds that the brand’s approach to wellness ‘goes beyond the mug’, saying: ‘its roots are in our sourcing, where ethical, transparent supply chains are our foundation. Its branches are in food justice, ensuring part of our revenue goes to supporting more equitable food systems.’
Hannah describes the drinks as ‘something [she hopes] will be the first and easiest good decision you make each day’, saying that ‘by feeling nourished, and by energis’ing in a way that’s restorative, not extractive, you’ll be able to show up more fully for yourself and your community’.
Her post concludes: ‘The path to healing and wholeness is messy, non-linear, and downright hard, but we’re here on the sidelines, cheering you on, making you a cup of tea when you feel weary.’
Meghan’s glowing review of the brand is not the most valuable pr she has given the company thanks to her Hollywood connections.
In November 2021, billionaire TV mogul Oprah Winfrey gave the company a leg-up after featuring it in the latest edition of her Favorite Things gift guide.
The TV host included products from instant oat milk latte brand Clevr Blends in this year’s version of her Christmas guide, in which she gushed over the ‘woman-led’ brand – which she was introduced to by her ‘neighbor Meghan’, who invested an unspecified amount in the company last year.
Meghan quickly made a move to promote its products via her friend Oprah by sending her a gift basket filled with the company’s superfood brands shortly after investing at the end of 2020.
At that time, Oprah happily shared the products on her Instagram account, which had more than 19 million subscribers at the time, in a post that was estimated to be worth a staggering $1 million in free publicity.
Then, less than a year later, Oprah offered Meghan’s coffee company yet another promotion by including its instant lattes in her list of Favourite Things from 2021.
‘My neighbor Meghan (yes, that one) introduced me to this woman-led wellness brand,’ she said in the list.
‘Not a day goes by without me sipping on the golden latte from this kit, which also comes with chai latte mix and a little frother.
‘You can add the mixes to smoothies for a flavor boost, too.’
The listing on Oprah’s website also included a link to the Clevr Blends website, where customers could purchase the brand’s $74 SuperLatte Starter Kit at a discount of 20 per cent if they used the code ‘Oprah’.
When Meghan first got involved with the product in 2020, she sent a gift box full the vegan coffee to Oprah, who shared a video of herself unboxing it to her Instagram account.
The post was reportedly worth at least $1 million and experts told MailOnline at the time that it was likely the most valuable piece of free publicity in history.
Despite marketing itself as an ethical brand, Clevr Blends sparked controversy in 2021 when The Mail on Sunday revealed the company had imported a large amount of its ingredients from a Chinese supplier that is based in a brutal police state.
Human rights groups had urged Western companies to cut business ties with China’s Xinjiang region because of appalling abuses, including the widespread use of forced labour and the detention of a million Uighur Muslims in re-education camps, where it is claimed women are systematically raped.
The brand sells a number of drinks, in powdered form, including oat milk lattes in a range of flavours
Meghan, 40, said she was ‘proud’ to invest in the company and praised CEO Hannah Mendoza for her ‘commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients’ (pictured, Hannah Mendoza)
Despite this, it was revealed in April 2021 that Clevr Blends had received almost 19 tons of oat milk powder from a company based in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, before switching to a US-based supplier at the start of that year.
The supplier – Xinjiang Haiyan International Trade – had its head office within four miles of four suspected detention centers, including a possible maximum security prison, and an alleged re-education site.
However, there is no evidence to suggest that Xinjiang Haiyan has used forced labour and The Mail on Sunday reported that the oats received by Clevr Blends were neither grown nor processed in Xinjiang.
Still, the US Department of State issued an updated warning to American businesses about ‘supply chain and investment links’ in the region in July of this year, urging all companies to end any existing relations with suppliers in the area.
‘Given the severity and extent of these abuses, including widespread, state-sponsored forced labor and intrusive surveillance taking place amid ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, businesses and individuals that do not exit supply chains, ventures, and/or investments connected to Xinjiang could run a high risk of violating U.S. law,’ the warning states.