Media giant Meredith buys Vermont’s ‘Eating Well’ magazine

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte’s Eating Well Media Group — including the popular “Eating Well” magazine, a book-publishing arm, an increasingly popular website, and what company officials say is a promising venture into licensing its products to Internet partners and firms related to the health care sector — has been sold to media giant Meredith Corp.
Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith publishes magazines with roughly 75 million subscribers, including “Family Circle” and “Better Homes and Gardens.” The publicly traded firm generates $1.6 billion of annual revenue. Terms of the sale of Eating Well, which became publicly known this week, were not disclosed.
Eating Well CEO Tom Witschi — who is becoming a Meredith executive vice president — said there are no plans to move Eating Well and its three dozen employees, a couple of whom live in Addison County, out of Vermont.
Witschi said Meredith values Vermont’s reputation for quality and the company’s existing work force, and that there are even expansion opportunities because Meredith plans to use its marketing power to boost Eating Well’s circulation from 350,000 to 500,000 by January.
“I can’t predict what will happen two years from now,” he said. “But it’s my understanding the business is staying in Vermont. They see the value of our location.”
The original “Eating Well” magazine was founded 20 years ago, but was folded in 1998 by Hachette Filipacchi, a company that publishes magazines that include “Car and Driver” and “Woman’s Day.”
With backing from Shelburne venture capital firm FreshTracks Capital L.P., “Eating Well” was restarted in 2002. Fresh Tracks owners include Weybridge’s Charles Kireker and Ferrisburgh’s Cairn Cross. Cross worked with the 2002 restart, according to Eating Well officials, and FreshTracks and other investors are the selling owners in the deal.
Eating Well Media Group has focused on new media, Witschi and other company officials said. According to company sources, unique visits at Eating Well’s website have in the past five years grown to 1.8 million per month, making it one of the 25 most popular food websites.
According to Meredith officials, that firm is launching recipe.com, which will feature 20,000 recipes. Witschi said Meredith plans to develop a magazine out of that website.
Like Eating Well, Witschi said Meredith is a “cross-platform” media company, making the purchase offer even more attractive.
“That was one of the reasons it was a really good fit,” he said.
Of Eating Well’s business components, Witschi said the fastest growing is the one described on the company website as “serving content to strategic partners with other electronic media.”
He said Eating Well licenses recipes and other proprietary diet and nutrition information to Internet firms that include AOL, MSN and Yahoo, and health insurance firms and self-insured companies interested in controlling health care costs.
“That’s becoming a huge business because of health care reform and the emphasis on wellness,” Witschi said. “Diet and nutrition is really becoming the cutting edge of health care.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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