Long before cause marketing and corporate social responsibility became common phrases, a joke between friends led Paul Newman to sell his homemade salad dressing in 1982 and give away the profits.
Newman’s Own marks its 35th anniversary today. It was on Aug. 25, 1982, that the philanthropic company shipped its first bottles of olive oil and vinegar salad dressing.
Newman’s Own distributed $837,000 to 30 charities in 10 states through the sale of that dressing in its first year. Giving now approaches $500 million to date, benefiting more than 7,500 charities in more than 75 countries, with more than 300 products — ranging from salad dressing and pasta sauce to salsa, lemonade and pet food — sold around the world.
In recognition the anniversary, Newman’s Own Foundation announced that it would award grants of $35,000 to 15 nonprofits that were originally funded and have been supported over more than three decades. The grants are part of the approximately $30 million being donated this year by the foundation and Newman’s Own. The foundation marked its 30th anniversary in similar fashion.
“When Paul started Newman’s Own, some people wondered if the company could survive if it gave all its profits away,” said Bob Forrester, president and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation and executive chairman of Newman’s Own. “Now, Newman’s Own is considered the exemplary philanthropic enterprise, which has helped thousands of nonprofits worldwide,” he said, often cited as the inspiration for other companies giving back.
Westport, Conn.-based Newman’s Own Foundation was founded by the legendary actor in 2005 to continue the legacy of donating all net profits and royalties from the sale of the products to charity. The foundation focuses its giving on encouraging philanthropy, children with life-limiting conditions, empowerment and nutrition. Newman died in 2008.
The foundation, funded by profits from Newman’s Own products, reported total revenue of $35 million in 2015 (the most recent year for which tax forms were available) and disbursements of more than $30 million.