In 1982 actor Paul Newman and his friend, writer A.E. Hotchner, started the Newman’s Own food company and made the decision to donate all profits to charity. Here’s the company’s origin story, from Mark Seal’s account in Vanity Fair of how the company is doing today:
Hotchner recalled how, a few days before Christmas in 1980, Newman phoned to say, “How about coming over and giving me a hand with something?” Hotchner did, only to find his friend drinking beer in his barn, with “a big washtub of vinegar and olive oil and condiments and a lot of dirty wine bottles. It was ridiculous, but it was fun. We drank beer and we mixed up the stuff.”
“The stuff” was Newman’s soon-to-be-famous salad dressing, which he had bottled for years and given away. Newman and Hotchner tied ribbons around the wine bottles, gathered their kids, and went Christmas caroling, distributing the bottles along the way. One of Newman’s neighbors then was a young caterer named Martha Stewart, who held a blind taste test. Newman’s was voted No. 1. Calling it Newman’s Own, Newman allowed his face to be put on the label. In 1982 the dressing went on sale in local gourmet shops and groceries.
Recalled Hotchner, “To our absolute disbelief, we banged quite a profit that first year”—$920,000, in fact. “Paul said, ‘We can’t be in the business of making money off of it! You’re a writer and I’m an actor and this isn’t what we do. Let’s give it all away to charity.’ ”
Seal’s story focuses on the feud over Paul Newman’s food empire and charitable foundation after his death.