The actor Paul Newman (1925–2008) did far more during his lifetime than smoulder on the silver screen. In 1982, with his friend and neighbor, the author and editor A.E. Hotchner, he started the Newman’s Own brand as a way to sell his popular bottles of salad dressing. Since then, 100 percent of Newman’s Own profits have been donated to charity, resulting in more than $460 million donated to date, and the late actor's legacy has become his incredible philanthropy.
1. IT STARTED AS A JOKE BETWEEN TWO FRIENDS IN A BARN.
Around Christmastime in 1980, Newman called Hotchner and asked him to come over to his house to help with something. When Hotchner arrived, he saw his friend in the barn with a big bucket of olive oil, vinegar, condiments, and empty wine bottles. Newman was making homemade salad dressing to give to neighbors as holiday gifts and needed a hand. ''We didn't have anything to stir it with,'' Hotchner told The New York Times in 2003, ''so Newman went to the river outside the barn and got his canoe paddle.'' Hotchner protested the lack of sterility, but Newman went ahead anyway. "Fortunately, after we gave it to the neighbors as gifts, no one died.''
2. MARTHA STEWART HELPED THEM BECOME A LEGITIMATE SALAD DRESSING BUSINESS.
Despite the unsanitary canoe paddle, Newman’s neighbors loved the taste of his salad dressing and wanted more. One of Newman’s neighbors, "local caterer" Martha Stewart, included his dressing in a blind taste test, and Newman’s Own won first place. Newman and Hotchner each invested $20,000 in their new company, and they started selling their salad dressing in local grocery stores in 1982.
3. NEWMAN AND HOTCHNER DECIDED TO GIVE ALL THEIR PROFITS TO CHARITY.
By the end of 1982, their salad dressing had earned upwards of $300,000, and Newman made the unprecedented decision that all profits would be given away to people in need. Newman planned to give all the money to a variety of charities, including some for helping children and the environment. Each year, they would chart their expenditures and profits and make sure that they gave away everything by December 31.
4. NEWMAN AND HOTCHNER'S FIRST OFFICE WAS FURNISHED WITH POOL FURNITURE.
When Newman and Hotchner opened an office for their new operation, they only had the $40,000 they'd put in to work with. Not wanting to waste their funds on anything frivolous, and since it was fall and he was about to close up his family's pool for the winter, Newman pulled all of his poolside furniture in to use for their new venture. His picnic table (complete with a beach umbrella) served as a joint desk, and a pong-pong table was used as the conference room table. Newman's wife had to buy all new pool furniture the next summer.
5. THEY STARTED OPENING CAMPS FOR SICK CHILDREN WITHIN A FEW YEARS.
In 1988, Newman and Hotchner opened their first camp for sick children in Connecticut, called the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp after the gang in one of Newman's most famous movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). More camps opened around the world, giving kids with serious illnesses the opportunity to run, play, and "raise a little hell," as Newman liked to say. The SeriousFun Children's Network, as it's now known, has provided camp experiences for hundreds of thousands of sick kids worldwide.
6. NEWMAN'S DAUGHTER CONVINCED HIM TO ADD AN ALL-ORGANIC LINE.
In 1993, Newman’s daughter Nell convinced her skeptical father that people wanted to eat organic foods, and she founded Newman’s Own Organics as a division of her dad’s company. Newman’s Own Organics pretzels and Fig Newmans were immediate successes, and the subset donates much of its profits to organic farming organizations.
7. NEWMAN'S OWN FOOD LABELS AIM TO BE QUIRKY AND WHIMSICAL.
Newman’s Own products have fun labels, each showing Newman dressed up in food-appropriate costumes. For example, he wears a beekeeper’s suit on the bottle of honey mustard dressing, and a cowboy hat on the bottle of ranch dressing. The labels on Newman’s Own Organics products—which feature a picture of Newman and Nell dressed as the characters in Grant Wood’s American Gothic—were designed by another of Newman's daughters, Lissy.
8. JOANNE WOODWARD CONTRIBUTED THE RECIPE FOR NEWMAN'S OWN LEMONADE.
Rather than just use his name and image on the packaging, Newman was very hands-on with recipe testing and sampling. His wife, the Academy Award-winning actress Joanne Woodward, developed the recipe for Newman's Own Lemonade, using an old family recipe from her ancestors in Georgia.
9. A PARTNERSHIP WITH MCDONALD'S HELPED MAKE THEIR SALAD DRESSINGS EVEN MORE POPULAR.
If you order a salad at McDonald’s, the dressing you’ll get will be Newman’s Own. Since 2003, the two companies have partnered to offer Newman’s Own salad dressings like ranch, creamy Caesar, balsamic vinaigrette, and southwest to McDonald’s customers. McDonald’s locations in the Northeast U.S. have also served Newman’s Own coffee for several years.
10. NEWMAN'S WILL CAUSED A LOT OF DISTURBANCE WITHIN HIS FAMILY AND COMPANY.
Before he died in 2008, Newman signed off for his adviser Robert Forrester to be left in charge of Newman’s Own and the Newman’s Own Foundation. Newman’s will, however, reportedly surprised his wife and daughters because it gave more power to Forrester and less control to them. Newman’s daughter Susan Kendall Newman expressed her concerns about her dad’s legacy, and daughter Nell was forced to end her association with Newman’s Own after her license to use her dad’s name and likeness for Newman’s Own Organics was not renewed.
11. THE NEWMAN'S OWN FOUNDATION HAS GIVEN $460 MILLION TO CHARITIES SO FAR.
In 2005, Newman created the Newman’s Own Foundation, which receives money from Newman’s Own profits and disperses it to various charities. The Newman’s Own Foundation focuses on giving money to charities that help sick children, encourage philanthropy, empower disadvantaged people, improve nutrition, and help the military. As of 2015, Newman’s Own Foundation contributed $460 million to charities around the world.