NEWMAN'S ORGANIC LINE:
A MODEL OF SUSTAINABILITY
It's a foggy day in Santa Cruz on California's Central Coast, but I'm having the picnic of a lifetime.
My companion, the beautiful 38-year-old daughter of two Oscar-winning actors, who herself was an acclaimed child actress, has provided a delectable menu: peppery pretzels made from all-organic ingredients, salad seasoned with a delicious dressing created by her father, and tangy natural lemonade. Dessert involves organic chocolates with dark, orange-flavored espresso, butter-toffee crunch, and milk chocolate with rice crisps.
Then she hands me what looks like a Fig Newton. "It's organic and non-fat," says Nell Newman. "We call them Fig Newmans."
The treat is a product of Newman's Own Organics, a division of Newman's Own. It's the manifestation of Nell Newman's commitment to sustainable agriculture and social justice. The idealism and independence which shape her vision were instilled in her by father Paul and mother Joanne Woodward.
It all started in 1982, when Paul Newman decided to market a homemade, all-natural salad dressing that family and friends hadproclaimed "magnificent." Salad-dressing may seem like an unusual side dish for a movie actor, but Paul Newman has always been atrailblazer, both on and off screen.
"I was raised with the perspectives that even if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, you can't run away from the need to do something to make a change. My father is a man who follows his own counsel," says his daughter. Daddy Newman figured he could do something interesting with his stardom, she explains, by using it to sell food products and donating all after-tax profits. The company has given more than $100 million to ecological and humanitarian organizations, and has created camps for disadvantaged children in America and Europe.
"Corporate farming is unsustainable," she explains. "Soil is depleted, crops and fields are sprayed with poisons, workers aremade sick by chemicals. The government subsidizes the conventional sugar production, and gives price supports to everything fromcows to tobacco. People complain about the high cost of organic foods, but the reason conventional foods appear to cost less isbecause tax dollars provide crop subsidies, cheap irrigation water and grazing land, and other supports. Tax dollars already payfor a portion of the cost of production," she continues, "then they spend more money buying the item retail. They've paid twice.And most consumers aren't counting the environmental costs of these 'cheap' products, like the money taxpayers spend to clean uppollution caused by corporate farming."
"It's the same way they've treated the hemp industry; it's obviously a political thing that they've ignored and scuttled a very versatile plant," she says. "They prevent our farmers from planting hemp, which can be grown without chemicals and has multiple uses, forcing us to import hemp at an inflated cost. But they subsidize tobacco, cotton, and the use of forests for paper. Logging companies benefit, the Forest Service benefits, Big Agriculture benefits. And of course they want everybody to believe hemp is an evil weed. "
Newman isn't waiting for the government to wake up to the benefits of sustainable agriculture--she's forcing change by buying organic ingredients for Newman's Own, and making them into delicious products which are becoming increasingly popular in health-food stores and mainstream supermarkets.
"We're making chocolate bars," she says, "from organic cacao grown on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. The growers have a long tradition of growing cacao without putting it into open-field monoculture plantations. Instead, they produce cacao like their ancestors did, without chopping down the rainforests to do it. We're also getting organic sugar and organic milk-powder, and our organic vanilla beans are produced on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and in Mexico."
Newman's Own, the food companyfounded by actor Paul Newman in 1982, announced that they have providedthe actor with funds which have now passed the $100 million mark in totaldonations to charity. The Flying Doctors, an organization that providesspecialist surgical care to Africa's most remote regions, was chosen toreceive the $50,000 donation that propelled the total lifetime giving ofNewman's Own into the triple digits.
Throughout his history of giving, Paul Newman has concentrated on groupsthat don't always have a strong voice in society - the elderly, children and thedisabled, among others. He chose The Flying Doctors to receive the $50,000because of their dedication to bringing top-quality medical care to people whootherwise would not have access to these services.
This $100 million milestone is no small achievement for a guy who decidedone Christmas that if his salad dressing recipe was good enough for hisfriends, then it was good enough for the public. Now almost 20 years later,what "started out as joke, and got out of control", according to Newman, thecompany's line has grown to include popcorn, pasta sauce, steak sauce,lemonade and salsa - with all after-tax profits going to educational andcharitable causes.
The Flying Doctors, part of the African Medical and Research Foundation(AMREF), was founded in 1957 by three plastic surgeons: Sir ArchibaldMcIndoe from New Zealand; Sir Michael Wood from the U.K.; and Dr. ThomasRees from the U.S. These three doctors dedicated their lives to making theirvision a reality: to bring specialized surgical care to Africa's most remoteareas and improve the lives of children and their familes who experienceextreme suffering and disfigurement.
When Newman started his company in 1982, he was advised by marketingexperts that he should expect to lose $1 million during the first year alone.Instead, Newman's Own became an overnight success, with Paul Newmandonating nearly $1 million to charity after his first 12 months of business. "Ifwe'd followed the experts' advice, we'd probably still be bottling the dressing inour basement, wondering if Newman's Own was a worthwhile businessventure," said Newman. "Instead, we followed our instincts, and 18 yearslater, company sales are stronger than ever." He attributes the company'ssuccess to its commitment to producing great-tasting, all-natural productsthat invite consumers to get involved in the charitable spirit. Written by: Pete Brady
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