Paul Newman was the first Hollywood star to create a business that has gone on to outlive him. Indeed, his Newman’s Own range of salad dressings and other foods, which launched in 1982, was years ahead of the game in that all profits would be donated to charity.
A star with a strong social conscience, Paul Newman – who at one point wanted to turn his back on stardom to become a marine biologist – became an entrepreneur almost by accident.
Back in 1980, one week before Christmas, Paul Newman and his pal Hemingway biographer A.E. Hotchner were messing about in Newman’s barn in Westport, Connecticut concocting a huge batch of salad dressing in an old horse barn. The men were using an old bathtub to make their enormous vat of salad dressing, even using a canoe paddle to stir it with, to bottle it up as Christmas presents.
Thankfully nobody died from food poisoning and the result was so delicious Newman decided to organise a blind tasting through a caterer he knew, the soon-to-be-famous-herself Martha Stewart. The judges overwhelmingly voted Newman’s concoction the favourite.
Newman and Hotchner decided to go into business the very next day, financing the venture with $20,000 each of their own seed money but the star was warned, “…just because they liked you as Butch Cassidy doesn’t mean they’ll all like your salad dressing”.
Key to the marketing of Newman’s Own was the picture of Newman himself dressed in a different costume for each of the different product lines. Newman only reluctantly agreed to be the face of the product, telling Hotchner: “My face on a bottle of salad dressing? Not a chance in hell.”
Famously, each bottle proclaims “100% Profits to Charity” and again Newman only reluctantly agreed to this, what he dismissed “noisy philanthropy”. To date, Newman’s Own has donated over $566m to charity.
What a mensch.