The Oracle of Omaha’s Edible InvestmentsApr 29, 2018 03:26PM ● By Linda Persigehl
Every spring, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders from around the globe convene in Omaha to hear the financial wisdom of legendary investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Shareholders also partake of some good grub. The annual Berkshire shareholders meeting's organizers present attendees with an array of savory bites and tasty treats in the days surrounding the event.
This year, Berkshire subsidiary Borsheims will host a private cocktail reception for shareholders Friday, May 4 (6-9 p.m.), at Regency Court Shopping Center. The big tent will include live music and a complimentary bar and buffet featuring gourmet appetizers and a carving station provided by Abraham Catering. Indoors, guests shopping for designer jewelry and fine gifts will have access to a second buffet and bar. Investors may return for a complimentary brunch Sunday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at Regency Court. Again, there’ll be live music, and guests can play table tennis with a former Olympian or partake in a game of bridge (one of Buffett’s favorite pastimes). Though not promised, Buffett may swing by for a bite and mingle with guests.
Subsidiary Nebraska Furniture Mart will hold a shareholders picnic Saturday (5:30-8 p.m.) at its Omaha and Texas locations. Cost is $5 and will cover food-truck fare and entertainment. Visitors looking to enjoy a good cut of Midwestern beef have another option. Gorat’s Steak House, one of Buffett’s preferred business lunch spots, will host a shareholders’ steak special from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations are required and space is limited, so red-meat lovers should act quickly.
A major tenet of Buffett’s investing strategy is “buy what you know,” and one thing the Oracle of Omaha knows well is America’s much-loved food brands. Here’s a partial list of Berkshire’s food/beverage subsidiaries and holdings.
The soft-serve ice cream and fast-food chain is one of Buffett’s favorite investments, as he regularly frequents his neighborhood store for a treat—typically a sundae loaded with cherry topping and nuts. Berkshire purchased DQ in 1997. Today, the chain boasts more than 6,000 restaurants worldwide and is valued at a cool $585 million. During Berkshire weekend, $1 Dilly, Fudge, and Vanilla Orange Bars and $2 Mini Blizzard Treats will be sold at the meeting, with proceeds benefitting children’s hospitals. Investors can also get “buy one, get one” deals on Blizzards at Omaha DQ stores with their credentials.
“See’s Candies became our model for investment in other quality companies,” Buffett wrote in the preface to a book about the company. Berkshire acquired the California-based, family-owned candymaker way back in 1972. Most famous for its chocolates, the retailer brought $410 million in revenue in 2016. The company’s retail website features a “Warren’s Favorites (& More)” page, which includes peanut brittle, chocolate walnut fudge, and bridge mix. During Berkshire weekend, the See’s Candies shop inside Nebraska Furniture Mart will be selling special edition shareholder candy boxes to investors.
Berkshire Hathaway owns just 9 percent of the soft-drink company, but Buffett quipped, “I’m one-quarter Coca-Cola” in a 2015 Fortune magazine interview. He’s a super-fan of the classic carbonated beverage (particularly Cherry Coke) and said he drinks at least five colas every day, oftentimes for breakfast with Utz Potato Stix (another favorite). “I eat like a 6-year-old,” joked Buffett, who defies his 87 years. Berkshire first bought Coke stock in 1988. Today, its shares are worth $16.6 billion, and Coca-Cola has been deemed the world’s third most valuable brand (after Apple and Google). Of course, only Coke soft drinks will be served at Berkshire events throughout the weekend (though CenturyLink Center concessions, ironically, serve Pepsi products).
Berkshire partnered with 3G Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, to buy Heinz in 2013. In 2015, it supported Heinz’s merger with Kraft Foods, making it the world’s fifth-largest food and beverage company. Its products range from cheese and dairy foods to convenience items and condiments. (Fun fact: 1 million boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese are sold every day!) Today, as a 27 percent shareholder, Berkshire’s holdings are worth over $28 billion. In April 2016, the food conglomerate produced a Berkshire shareholders’ meeting commemorative Heinz Ketchup bottle featuring caricatures of Buffett and Munger on the label. It’s a collectible, no doubt.
This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.