Duchess Meghan invests in startup that makes instant oat milk lattes

By Zach Harper

Duchess Meghan has long spoken out about gender equality, been an advocate of healthy, eco-friendly living and been passionate about food security. She's bringing those three causes together with an investment in a startup business.

Clevr Blends, co-founded by CEO Hannah Mendoza, started making instant oat milk lattes in 2017 near Montecito, Calif., where the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Archie now live.

"This investment is in support of a passionate female entrepreneur who prioritizes building community alongside her business," Meghan said in a statement to Fortune. "I'm proud to invest in Hannah's commitment to sourcing ethical ingredients and creating a product that I personally love and [that] has a holistic approach to wellness. I believe in her, and I believe in her company."

Meghan's investment was revealed after Oprah Winfrey made a special video in which she shared a Christmas gift hamper her neighbour, "M," had given her. The basket contained several of Clevr Blends' instant latte mixes.

Fortune reports Meghan contacted the company after having one of their lattes. The amount of her investment hasn't been disclosed, but Meghan has long expressed interest in gender equality and women supporting and lifting each other up. According to the publication, companies founded and run by women received less than 3 per cent of venture capital funding last year.

"Entrepreneurs need funding, but they also need advisers who care deeply about what they are building," Hannah told Fortune. "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."

The brand is also committed to giving back to southern California, something that has been a focus of Meghan's since she, Harry and Archie moved to Los Angeles earlier this year. One per cent of Clevr's revenue is donated to organizations backing food security and justice, according to Fortune. Clevr has also been outspoken about the connections between food justice and racial justice.

The emphasis on oat milk also hearkens back to Meghan and Harry's climate justice work and environmentalism. Studies have shown that compared to dairy milk, rice milk and soy milk, oat milk produces the lowest emissions per kilogram, uses the least land per square metre and also requires the least water to produce.

On Dec. 13, Meghan made her first appearance since revealing she'd had a miscarriage earlier this year. The duchess made a two-minute speech about food security and the coronavirus pandemic as part of CNN Heroes.

"Back in March, the COVID-19 crisis hit hard, and overnight everything seemed to change," she said in the clip, which looks like it was shot in the backyard of her California home. "For many families, the impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic, and far too many were faced with the heartbreaking question: How am I going to put food on the table for my family?

"But in the face of this devastating reality, we also saw the power of the human spirit and the remarkable ways that communities respond in challenging times. We saw the good in people, in our neighbours and in entire communities coming together to say they would not stand by while our neighbours went hungry."

In April, Meghan and Harry distributed food through Project Angel Food, a non-profit organization that helps Los Angelinos who are immunocompromised or facing severe health issues get nutritious, healthy food. In June, they also visited Homeboy Industries, which runs a program that gets meals to senior citizens and young people experiencing hunger and difficulty accessing food.

The Sussexes are also working on creating their Archewell Foundation, and gender equality will be a key pillar of their work with it. Given the emphasis the two have placed on food security this year, it's reasonable to expect to see them doing more food justice advocacy with the organization.

Meghan remains active with The Hubb Community Kitchen, which she has supported since living in the U.K. The initiative was formed to help survivors of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire. She wrote the foreword for its 2018 cookbook and continues to regularly check in with the Hubb. She supported its work to provide hungry Londoners with food during the early days of the pandemic.

Longtime fans of Meghan will also remember she was known for stepping out to Toronto food banks to volunteer while she lived in the city and was a member of the cast of Suits.

Last year, Toronto's St. Felix Centre shared an unseen photo of the duchess volunteering in its kitchen. She dropped in regularly as part of the shelter's Community Meals Program. One Thanksgiving, she brought food, including turkey and side dishes, from the set of Suits for more than 100 people trying to access meals through the centre. She was known as "the lovely Meghan" during her time there.

We're thrilled to hear about Meghan's investment, and we imagine there will be many more to come!

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