in the Miami Herald on 11/24/03
launch, acceptance and success of the Newman's Own brand turned
into a powerful engine for supporting good works.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good. Paul Newman and A. E.
Hotchner. Doubleday. 253 pages. 23.95
improbable success of the Newman's Own brand is truly remarkable,
since most celebrity-named products fail. Remember Frank Sinatra's
spaghetti sauce? Me neither.
actor Paul Newman used to make his own salad dressing for himself,
his family and friends, avoiding the usual cocktail of artificial
ingredients and chemical preservatives found in most store-bought
salad concoctions. After much encouragement (and soul-searching),
Newman -- along with writer and neighbor A.E. Hotchner -- decided
to market the salad dressing
Newman and his partner Hotchner write in their new book, recounting
a meeting with a group of new product consultants: '`Celebrity products
fall into a category of their own,' said Karen, a trim blonde in
a tailored suit. 'When celebrities come out with their own products
-- Rocky Graziano's spaghetti sauce, Mickey Mantle's barbecue sauce,
Nolan Ryan's All-Star Fruit Snacks, Gloria Vanderbilt's salad dressing,
Reggie Jackson's candy bar, Carl Yastrzemski's Big Yaz Bread, Diane
von Furstenberg's facial tissue, Bill Blass' chocolates, Richard
Simmons's Salad Spray, Tommy Lasorda's spaghetti sauce, Yves St.
Laurent's cigarettes -- all examples of products these famous people
promoted with unsatisfactory results. There's never been a real
celebrity success in the food business. We estimate the total start-up
loss for celebrity products somewhere close to $900 million. No
offense, Mr. Newman,' Karen said, `but just because they liked you
as Butch Cassidy doesn't mean they'll like your salad dressing.'''
irony, of course, is that Newman's stellar acting career has probably
been eclipsed by the success of his company's products and his good
eventual launch, acceptance and success of Newman's Own Salad Dressing,
followed by a line of other dressings, popcorn, salsa, lemonade
and more -- developed and marketed by Newman, Hotchner and cohorts
-- is a hell of a story
(the obvious scribe of the pair) has authored a number of books
about Ernest Hemingway, and does a nice job here communicating the
challenge of starting a new business, competing against established
brands, dealing with personnel issues and other matters common to
the story is told in both a personal and general way and is entertaining,
its value to would-be entrepreneurs is questionable. Sure, the lesson
of resolute dedication to core values and dogged perseverance is
well told, but ultimately, their success story is the exception
rather than the rule. That's truly remarkable and commendable, but
probably would be impossible for mere mortals to replicate.
first half of the book concerns the company's launch; the latter
portion is about the charities that its earnings support -- mainly
camps with activities for terminally ill children. That's really
another book unto itself. The story is heartfelt and touching, and
reveals that starting a charitable enterprise can often be fraught
with many of the same perils inherent in any other startup -- and
Shameless Exploitation is an interesting and informative volume,
but as a useful and insightful look into the process of new product
development in the very competitive area of food and groceries,
it represents a missed opportunity by its authors.