Inside American Riviera Orchard – Meghan Markle’s ‘Aspirational’ New Lifestyle Brand

The Goop-style company has been a long time in the making

Meghan Markle

by Hattie Crisell |
Updated on

As Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, soft launches the first official product from her new lifestyle brand - a strawberry jam - Grazia looks at how American Riviera Orchard became the former Royal's biggest bid for success yet...

In mid-March, at the peak of speculation over the wellbeing of the Duchess of Cambridge, a new profile on Instagram pulled attention in an entirely unexpected direction. The account @americanrivieraorchardlaunched with six bombshell words: ‘By Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex’.

Little information has been given so far by the account – or on its website, – other than an image of white linen embroidered with the name American Riviera Orchard and a logo in golden calligraphy. A video posted in the account’s stories showed glimpses of Meghan baking, arranging flowers and standing dreamily in a ballgown, with a soundtrack of Nancy Wilson’s 1960 jazz song, I Wish You Love.

It then emerged that Meghan has filed trademark applications for the brand, as well as jellies, jams, marmalades, there are cookbooks, tablecloths, stationery, fragrance sachets, bath salts, shower gels, hair products, moisturisers, body oil, yoga mats and pet shampoo. Even with scant details, it’s clear a lifestyle brand is afoot.

Meghan Markle at SXSW in Texas in March
Meghan speaking at SXSW last month (Getty) ©SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

Goop is the blueprint for celebrity- fronted retailers focusing on luxurious domestic life, and Meghan and Harry apparently had dinner with its founder, Gwyneth Paltrow, and her husband Brad Falchuk (and other friends) last May. The get-together prompted speculation that Paltrow may have shared advice, but those in the know say that Meghan has paid much more attention to the brand Flamingo Estate, owned by Australian-born Richard Christiansen, who once ran a creative agency.

Flamingo Estate has a similarly wholesome, upmarket feel, selling $80 jams and $40 soaps made with ingredients produced at Christiansen’s stunning house and garden (with, yes, orchards) in California. American publication Puck reported that Meghan had several meetings with the team in 2022 and had hoped to become ‘an active partner’ in the brand; she’s said to have been given an in-depth understanding of how the business operates. Now that the deal has apparently fallen through, it’s speculated that she’s putting that research into practice as she launches independently.

Meghan and Harry have been trying to establish their income since 2020, when they ceased to be working members of the royal family. Their high-profile ventures have included an £80m Netflix contract, which was thought to be hanging in the balance until the streaming network announced new projects with the former Royals, including a documentary about polo, and a lifestyle series exploring 'the joys of cooking, gardening, entertaining, and friendship'.

A documentary series about their personal story became one of the platform’s most-watched of all time, but their other shows – one on the Invictus Games and another about world leaders – made less impact. Meanwhile, a now-dissolved $20m deal with Spotify resulted in only 12 episodes of Meghan’s Archetypes podcast. Spotify’s head of podcast innovation and monetisation later referred to the couple as ‘grifters’.

There has been one other significant commercial success: Harry’s memoir Spare quickly became the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time. With that and the documentary, however, there’s a feeling that the couple have exhausted the public’s interest in his family story. ‘Certainly, they can’t monetise their drama any more,’ says brand strategist Lucie Greene. ‘I think that has reached the end of its road.’

American Riviera Orchard could take them in a more positive and professionally sustainable direction. It’s a project that absolutely makes sense, since Meghan was sharing recipes, travel recommendations and fashion tips on her blog The Tig before she became engaged to Harry. She’s also rumoured to be making a Martha Stewart-style show about her domestic life as a final production in the Netflix deal. ‘She’s always modelled herself as a lifestyle curator,’ says Greene. ‘Some people seem to already want to hate this brand but, actually, I think it’s a very smart move for her.’

There is no public knowledge yet of her team or investors, but every detail that has emerged seems thoroughly considered. Under the brand’s logo sits the word ‘Montecito’: where Meghan and Harry own a 16-bedroom estate, on the edge of Santa Barbara between the Santa Ynez mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Their neighbours include Paltrow, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey.

A piece in The New York Times described it as a place for ‘wealthy people who have succeeded in becoming their best selves’ and ‘one of the rare places that looks even better in real life than it does on Instagram’. It was dubbed the American Riviera in the first half of the 20th century because so many glamorous Europeans moved there; Harry and Meghan are the obvious couple to revive that association.

Despite no longer being working royals and being widely criticised in the press, they still enjoy regal clout and a huge fanbase in the US. Meghan is wise to have used her title of Duchess of Sussex in announcing the business. ‘There’s a lot of class reference in the branding,’ says Greene. ‘“American Riviera” sounds like old money – and then “Orchard” gives it this folksy, Hamptonsy, Ina Garten feeling. What’s going to be interesting is the price point Meghan chooses, because I think she’d be stupid to make it too expensive. There’s a real opportunity for her to make it more accessible than Flamingo Estate, and market high-class America to an aspiring middle-American crowd.’

Lauren Stevenson, co-founder of the communications agency Aisle 8, agrees that it could be hugely successful. ‘We’ve seen a surge in lifestyle brands over the past five years, as social media opened up people’s daily lives to the world,’ she says. ‘Meghan has a global following and, whether positive or negative, the media report on her activities every day – so the business will get the kind of marketing exposure that most could only dream of. With her connections she also has a ready-made network of international influence. The opportunity is enormous.’

Among her contacts in Montecito is reportedly Jamie Mizrahi, a fashion stylist said to be helping her to refresh her look. Mizrahi has styled Adele, Jennifer Lawrence and Riley Keough, and is said to have a warm and friendly way of working; since Meghan was previously styled by former BFF Jessica Mulroney, it’s easy to imagine that this approach would make Mizrahi the right fit for a new chapter.

Judging by the Instagram video, it seems that Meghan will not only be the personality behind American Riviera Orchard, but the face of it too – another smart decision. ‘She’ll be able to stream content from her home and once again open up their private world as she presents the products,’ says Stevenson. ‘That’s extremely powerful in today’s world, when people want real life.’

There are plenty of celebrities modelling how Instagram can be used to create a feeling of openness, while still preserving the privacy that Meghan and Harry have claimed in the US. ‘I think Gwyneth is a great example,’ says Greene. ‘She gives just the right amount of candour and humour, but it’s still elevated. There are ways to be exclusive while still being among the people. It’s going to be interesting to see Meghan, a social-media native who was clearly frustrated by her time in the royal family, applying her expertise in this way.’

Though you don’t have to go far to find snarky commentary about American Riviera Orchard, this is a venture that could really fly. ‘She’s got all the ingredients there to make it work and, although there are naysayers, they’re not the audience who will be buying this stuff,’ adds Greene. ‘If she gets good advice, it’s got huge potential.’

American Riviera Orchard: The Lowdown

How to buy Meghan Markle's jam

The first product on sale from American Riviera Orchard is a jar of strawberry jam, hand numbered and dressed with a piece of cloth and a ribbon. While an official launch date for Meghan's wares has yet to be released, you can join the waitlist to be alerted as soon as more information becomes available.

Can you buy American Riviera Orchard in the UK?

Given the company's all-American branding, it's not currently known whether American Riviera Orchard's products will be on sale in the UK. While the original website is a .com address, the .uk version of the URL was snapped up by an unaffiliated party, with the website linking through to a Just Giving page fundraising for food bank charity The Trussell Trust. The Trussell Trust confirmed to the MailOnline that it did not set up the website or donation page.

At this stage, it's not clear whether international fans of Meghan's will be able to buy American Riviera Orchard products. We'll let you know when more details become available!

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