Tennis star Maria Sharapova has defended her own-brand candies "Sugarpova" and said that while she understands the health concerns surrounding high sugar content in food and drink, she does not think any criticism is "fair".
Sharapova, who considered temporarily changing her name to Sugarpova during the U.S. Open in 2013 in order to promote the premium candy line, has come under criticism from nutritionists following the launch of the business in 2012.
"It's understandable. I don't know that it's fair but I understand the criticism. But the only way to respond to that is that I'm an athlete that knows what is healthy and what is not for my body. Being healthy is one of the biggest priorities as a professional athlete. But on the other hand I also know that everyone loves sweets including myself," Sharapova told Tania Bryer, host of CNBC Meets.
"And ever since I was a young girl and I would be very good and I would have the right meals and I would start my day with oatmeal and I would go and have a good practice, but at the end of the day, there was always that little treat that I would ask my parents for," she added.
At 27, Sharapova has already amassed 34 singles titles, including 5 Grand Slams and is the highest-paid female athlete in the world, with a fortune of around $24 million.
Ranked second in the world by the Women's Tennis Association after Serena Williams, Sharapova said she first conceived the idea for a candy business when she was forced to take a break from tennis due to a serious shoulder injury, and did not know whether she would be able to play tennis again.
"The first time I really started thinking about business and my own ventures was when I was going through my injury. I was 21 years old, I didn't know if I'd be able to play again and I had made enough money to not have to work for the rest of my life and be able to support my family and be very happy," Sharapova said.
"But … I love to work, I love to do things, I love to learn. Candy wasn't something that I had ever thought I would get into. I never knew anything about it except I had a big sweet tooth and that maybe one day I would develop it into a big brand. And the name Sugarpova came about in a meeting that my agent and I had. I thought it was fun and young and fresh," she added.
Sugarpova is now available in over 30 different countries and the athlete said two years after the launch of the business, she is looking at "going into different directions" with the brand.
CNBC Meets: Maria Sharapova will air on 25 March at 23:00 CET