Forbes Billionaires

Top ten wealthiest in food and drink 2014

Forbes recently published a list of the top 500 billionaires on the planet. Heading the list was Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, with a fortune of £45.2bn. But it wasn’t just internet entrepreneurs on the list. Food and drink businesses were responsible for the fortunes of a number of the world’s top billionaires. Here are the top 10 wealthiest people in world food and drink manufacturing – and bear in mind these rankings can go up and down with the markets.

Michele FerreroWorld ranking: #22 – Michele Ferrero & family – $26.6bn – Chocolates – Italy

Confectionery manufacturer Ferrero Group’s owner tops the list of the richest people in global food and drink manufacturing.

In 1950, at the tender age of 23, Michele Ferrero joined the family business and is credited with having invented many of the firm’s popular products. A life dedicated to chocolate has paid off for Ferrero who is the wealthiest man in food and drink manufacturing. 

He is the patriarch of the family that owns the Ferrero Group, maker of Kinder and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Nutella and Tic Tac.

In 1946, his parents Pietro and Piera transformed a pastry shop into a factory and started manufacturing chocolate products. Having joined the business in 1950, Michele is credited with having helped his father invent the firm’s products.

Michele’s son Giovanni is now ceo. The Kinder and Ferrero brands are now available in five continents and manufactured from 18 plants worldwide.

Related reading:

Ferrero unwrapped: Italy’s secretive confectioner opens its doors

Chocolate king Ferrero dies during Cape Town visit

World ranking: #30 – Jorge Paulo Lemann – $21.6bn  – Beer – Brazil

Former tennis champion Jorge Paulo Lemann is Brazil’s richest man and the fourth wealthiest person in food and drink thanks to his shares in the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.

As well as sitting on top of a £11.7bn fortune, his private equity firm 3G Capital acquired Heinz together with Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway in March last year for £13.6bn.

In 2010, 3G Capital also bought fast food restaurant chain Burger King.

Forrest Mars World ranking: #38 – Forrest Mars Jr, Jacqueline Mars, John Mars – $19.4bn – Candy – United States

Jacqueline, John and Forrest Mars all jointly own Mars. All three are on the board of directors of the confectionery giant, but have no input on the day-to-day running of the business.

The three siblings are the grandchildren of founder Frank Mars, who started making and selling butter cream candy in his kitchen in Tacoma, Washington, USA in 1911.

His son, Forrest Mars Snr joined the business in 1929. A year later the firm released its Snickers brand.

Mars is famous for its M&Ms, Twix, Snickers and Milky Way chocolate brands – as well as Uncle Ben’s rice and a number of pet food products.

Alejandro Santo Domingo Davila World ranking: #90 –  Alejandro Santo Domingo Davila & family – $12.4bn – Beer – Colombia

Alejandro Santo Domingo Davilla inherited his fortune from his father Julio Mario Santo Domingo Pumarejo, after his death in 2011.

Pumerejo made his money through his Bavaria brewery but traded it in 2005 for 15% of SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer. The stake is now worth nearly £5.9bn.

The inheritance is shared between Alejandro – the face of the family and MD of New York investment firm Quadrant Capital Advisors – and his brother, Andres, along with their brother-in-law’s widow, Vera Santo Domingo and her two children.

Zong Qinghou World ranking: #102 – Zong Qinghou –  $11.5bn – Beverages – China

Zong Qinghou chairs Wahaha, China’s largest homegrown beverage company. Its main sellers: bottled water, teas and other ready-to-drinks. Zong was the richest man last year among mainland Chinese. His fortune stayed flat amid a lack of attention-grabbing new drinks. Zong made more waves for his tentative efforts to expand into the shopping mall business, working in part with foreign brands.

Sole child, daughter Kelly, is Zong’s heir apparent.

Related reading:

From popsicle maker to beverage billionaire, China’s richest man

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken World ranking: #103 – Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken –  $11.4bn  Heineken – Netherlands

Charlene de Carvalho, along with her husband Michel, inherited her fortune from her father Freddy Heineken in 2002.

Her 25% controlling stake in the Dutch brewer makes her one of the richest women in the world. Her son Alexander de Carvalho joined the board in April 2013.

Investment banker Michel de Carvalho sits on the board and is a former child movie star – having appeared in the 1963 epic Lawrence of Arabia.

Tsai Eng-Meng World ranking: #105 – Tsai Eng-Meng – $11.2bn- Food, Beverages – Taiwan

Taiwan’s richest man is from the snack food business. Tsai Eng-Meng, chairman of Want Want China, made his fortune mainly from his success in introducing quirky snacks and beverages in the mainland.

Controversial at home in Taiwan for what are seen as pro-China political views, Tsai also invests in media, financial services and hotels.

Marcel Herrmann Telles World ranking: #107 – Marcel Herrmann Telles – $11.2bn – Beer – Brazil

Marcel Hermann Telles owes much of his wealth to his controlling shares in Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer company. He invested in the company together with longtime partners and fellow billionaires, Jorge Paulo Lemann and Carlos Alberto Sicupira.

The trio came together in the 1970s to form a Rio de Janeiro brokerage that became one of Brazil’s biggest investment banks. They sold it to Credit Suisse for a reported $675 million in 1998. Their investment firm 3G Capital bought Burger King in 2010 for $3.3 billion. They took the hamburger chain private and then took it public again two years later. Telles sits on the board.

In 2013, together with Berkshire Hathaway, 3G bought HJ Heinz & Company for $23-billion.

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi World ranking: #125 – Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi $10.0bn – Beverages – Thailand

Son of a Bangkok street vendor, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi made a fortune selling his inexpensive Chang beer and Sang Som Rum. He took his Thai Bev, Thailand’s largest brewer, public in Singapore in 2006.

Sirivadhanabhakdi bought Singapore-listed Fraser & Neave, property and beverage conglomerate, for $11-billion last year after winning a bidding war against Indonesia’s Riady family. In January, he spun off its property assets into Singapore-listed listed Frasers Centerpoint. TCC Land, his private property arm, is the largest owner of Marriott Hotels in Asia Pacific; owns six InterContinental hotels in the region. He also owns Bangkok’s famous tech-mall Pantip Plaza, Hotel Plaza Athenee in Manhattan. His net worth was impacted by softening property values across the region.

Dietrich Mateschitz World ranking: #127 – Dietrich Mateschitz –  $9.8bn – Red Bull – Austria

Red Bull is the leading brand in a frothy energy drinks market, with company sales up an impressive 16% in 2012 to $6.7- billion — boosting co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz’s net worth by an estimated $2.1 billion. Born in Styria, Austria to a family of Croatian ancestry, Mateschitz marketed detergents for Unilever and toothpaste for German cosmetics company Blendax. It was during his travels for Blendax that he discovered Krating Daeng, the drink that would become Red Bull.

In 1984, he founded Red Bull GmbH with Thailand’s Chalerm Yoovidhya, who died in March 2012. A Taurus (the zodiac sign of the bull), Mateschitz owns 49% of the company, which sold 5.23 billion cans of Red Bull worldwide in 2012 – with eye-popping revenue gains in South Africa (+52%), Japan (+51%) and Saudi Arabia (+38%). (China, alas, remains unconquered territory.)

Mateschitz and his team excel at highly publicised marketing stunts. In October 2012, he financed a team supporting the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who broke a record with a supersonic freefall jump from 24 miles above the earth. However, because of its contents, Red Bull is still banned in Iceland and Uruguay.

The company has stakes in two soccer teams, Red Bull Salzburg and the New York Red Bulls, and a Formula One team, Red Bull Racing. Mateschitz’s other interests include Seitenblicke magazine; Servus TV; a luxury resort on the island of Laucala in Fiji; and Hangar-7, the event center on the grounds of the Salzburg airport that houses his historical aircraft collection, the Flying Bulls.

Related reading:

Red Bull’s billionaire maniac

Red Bull billionaire co-owner Yoovidhya dies

Marketing Moments 2012: Red Bull Stratos

For more on the world’s richest food and beverage magnates, visit Forbes here