As legendary of an actor as Paul Newman was, he always hoped he’d be remembered for a little more than Cool Hand Luke or his big blue eyes. He was many things: a director, a racecar driver, a businessman, a husband, and a father. He was also an incredible food enthusiast and philanthropist.
He decided to combine those two passions in 1982. After years of making homemade salad dressings and pasta sauces at home, often giving them away to friends as Christmas presents, he and his good friend A.E. Hotchner established Newman’s Own. Initially, he was hesitant about having his face plastered on all of his products, but decided to do it. And not only would the ingredients for every product have to be all-natural, but 100% of the profits would be given to charity. No exceptions. It was unprecedented (and still would be today) for a movie star to lend their image and name without any sort of direct monetary benefit. But that was Paul.
As the popularity of his high quality foods – which included not just salad dressing and pasta sauce, but salsa, iced tea, lemonade, pizzas, popcorn, pretzels, cookies, cereal, coffee, wine, and condiments – increased, he once quipped: “The embarrassing thing is that my salad dressing is out-grossing my films.” In 2003, he and Hotchner co-wrote a book (alternating chapters) about their endeavors, titled humorously and not-so-ironically Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good (you can buy it used on Amazon for a penny… it’s an awesome read).
In August of this year, Newman’s Own marked its 30th year and, as the Stamford Advocate wrote, $350 million has gone to fund human services, health programs, education, arts, culture, and Newman’s passion, the Hole in the Wall Camps, which were residential summer camps for seriously (and often terminally) ill children, of which he helped out every summer until his death after its establishment in 1988.
In all, they help support 750 charities. While Newman died in 2008, he has ensured that the legacy of his company would live on, with all profits still going to charity, with his family and Hotchner still running the business, and with his daughter’s “spin off” company, Newman’s Own Organics, promoting other healthy foods.
For the company’s 30th anniversary, they have a goal of giving away $30 million this year. That would be the largest amount of any single year, but the company is confident that the quality of their product will make it possible. I am also. If I’m buying jarred pasta sauce, it’s usually Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce. My go-to salad dressing at home is their Olive Oil & Vinegar. If I’m dipping chips into salsa, it’s almost without exception their Hot, Mango, Chunky Roasted Garlic, or Tequila Lime. They are even kind enough to have dozens of recipes (many of them Paul’s) on their website.
So, if you feel like buying some Ragu or Tostino’s salsa or a DiGiorno, take a look down the aisle a ways. Look for that bright, smiling face of Paul. Not only will you be eating a great, all-natural product, but your extra pennies will be going to a good cause.