Actor Paul Newman is best known to the public as a star of Golden Age Hollywood, but younger fans might also know him as the face of Newman's Own salad dressing. For those confused about how an actor could end up on a salad dressing label and not as an endorsement, here's what you need to know about the history of Newman's Own brand and where it stands today.
Why is Paul Newman on salad dressing? He co-founded Newman's Own in 1982.
According to the Newman's Own website, Paul Newman, alongside friend and author A.E. Hotchner, created his now-signature salad dressing in 1980 in his backyard barn. Paul and A.E. decided to distribute the homemade dressing to neighbors as holiday gifts. Previously, he was known as a picky eater at restaurants, frequently amusing his fellow diners by asking the chefs for ingredients to make his own concoctions.
The website also alleges that word of Paul's dressing prowess spread, and he saw an opportunity to turn it into a business. In 1982, Newman's Own became a business that pulled in $920,000 in first-year profits. The duo decided to go the extra mile and turn their business into a foundation to support children's nutrition. They created the Newman's Own Foundation and declared that 100 percent of the profits would go to charity.
Some of the organizations the Newman's Own Foundation works with include First Nations Development Institute, FoodCorps, HarlemGrown, Safe Water Network, SeriousFun Children's Network (another Newman philanthropic project!), Soul Fire Farm, and Wellness in Schools.
The mission of the Newman's Own Foundation is "To nourish and transform the lives of children who face adversity." Three of its primary goals are giving back to children with serious illnesses, ensuring nutritious food in schools, and supporting indigenous communities. The company has also branched out into other products, such as pasta sauces, beverages, cookies, and more.
When Paul Newman passed away in 2008, he left Newman's Own to Robert Forrester. However, in 2015, the Newman family began to question the direction of the Newman's Own company and if it was still following in the footsteps of the charitable foundation to which Paul had aspired. Several of the foundations that Paul Newman had founded during his lifetime were being de-funded or changed, including the Scott Newman Center and Newman/Haas Racing.
Susan Kendall Newman, the eldest Newman child, was quoted in 2015 by Vanity Fair expressing her disgust in Forrester's management of the company, despite his record of a good partnership with Paul and knowledge of nonprofit work.
"Whether my family will go public [with our complaints] or not, there isn’t a single living Newman who respects or has faith in Robert Forrester and his management of my father’s food company, Newman’s Own Foundation, or the continuation and protection of his legacy," Susan said at the time.
However, it seems that some of the issues with Newman's Own have been ironed out, and as of 2021, the Westport-based company named David Best as the CEO of Newman's Own, Inc, according to Food Business News.
More information about Paul Newman's life and legacy can be found in new HBO Max documentary The Last Movie Stars, streaming now.