Maria Sharapova Banks On Chocolate To Triple Sugarpova Sales To $20 Million

Forbes on 2016 -Jan -22

Sharapova started Sugarpova with a $500,000 investment in 2012
World’s best-paid female athlete searched for 15 months for the right chocolate maker
Maria Sharapova is banking on chocolate to triple sales of her Sugarpova candy brand to $20 million.

That’s not bad for a company that started in 2012 with a $500,000 investment by the five-time major winner from Russia and was run by her long-time agent at IMG, Max Eisenbud. Although neither had a background in consumer goods, the pair ended up creating a niche in the $28 billion gummy market with a premium brand.

“We’re building for when her career is over,” Eisenbud said in an interview at the Australian Open in Melbourne. “The plan is to turn Sugarpova into a lifestyle brand,” which may also sell home goods, sleep and loungewear, he added.

Maria Sharapova unveiling a Sugarpova pop-up shop at Bloomingdale’s in New York in August. The candy brand has sold 5 million bags in 2015. (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Sugarpova)

Sharapova, who will play Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic for a spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals Sunday, spent 15 months looking for a chocolate maker to work with. Sugarpova’s chocolate line – complete with colorful lips on its bags and in different flavors – will start selling shortly before the French Open in May. Sharapova is a two-time champion on the clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris.

“It was fun taste testing everything,” Eisenbud said, adding the former top-ranked player eventually settled on a European brand. Its foray into chocolate may triple Sugarpova revenues to $20 million by 2018, Eisenbud estimated. At that stage, the company could seek outside funding to help it grow further.