Martha Stewart Kitchen is now a grocery store brand coming soon to an aisle near you.
Stewart’s licensing business was acquired by New York-based Marquee in 2019, which now claims it is on track to be one of the largest first-time grocery store launches. In nine months, the operating company and master licensor MSK Foods have launched 40 products, mostly frozen appetizers and desserts, that are now selling across 10,000 stores, including Kroger, Publix and Albertsons.
“The food line has been a rocket ship,” says Marquee’s CEO Neil Fiske. “In the world of food at grocery, there was a gap in the market that the Martha Stewart brand would be perfect for, which is prepared foods that doesn’t taste like cardboard and are what you would expect to find from Martha Stewart.”
Fiske estimates that the food brand could have retail sales of $500 million, or even as much as $1 billion by 2025. That would probably require more than doubling its shelf space, product offerings and door count, putting MSK’s line on par with much larger and more established brands like Jell-O or Kool-Aid, but Fiske thinks he can pull it off.
It’s just the latest venture for the 79-year-old Stewart’s varying businesses, which include cannabis products, home decor and bakeware. Stewart reaches more than 100 million consumers a month across her website, merchandise and social media channels, and her branded products can already be found in more than 70 million households. Together, the products pull in roughly $900 million in retail sales annually, a figure that brand owner Marquee is projecting it will be able to triple or possibly even quadruple over the next three to five years.
Marquee, which is owned by investor funds managed by Neuberger Berman, acquired Stewart’s brand in 2019 from publicly traded Sequential Brands Group for an undisclosed price. Marquee has annual retail sales of more than $2 billion, and also owns the licenses for Emeril Lagasse’s brand and others.
When Marquee decided to launch a food brand, it chose to work with Mediacast, a private investment firm with a media arm. “We show up with our own money and we invest our own dollars into business and we take the risk,” says MSK Foods CEO Ken Venturi. “It is a significant multi-million-dollar investment.”
Stewart is an employee of Marquee and “extremely involved” in each new licensing deal, according to Fiske. The recipes are developed by Stewart’s longtime culinary director and are inspired by her cookbooks or her otherwise 30 years of recipes. “Martha is obsessed, in a great way, about product quality, like no one I’ve ever seen,” Fiske says. “She sees every single product and every single sample and tests them.”
The full food line will include entrées, side dishes, ready-to-heat grain blends, deli items and baked goods by 2022. Aside from home cooking, Fiske says the team is ready to expand Stewart’s brand into many other areas, with a lineup that includes growing the outdoor planters she sells into a full-blown gardening line and even potentially a Martha Stewart restaurant. Beyond food, there’s plans for a pet line, more for kids and getting back into the crafting business.
These extensions already have 98% brand recognition on their side, according to Marquee. The rest will come down to execution. As Fiske says, “Martha is the ultimate expert in all things home. There’s really no brand that compares to 30 years of content, storytelling, product development and teaching.”