You would expect the life of a child of actors Paul Newman
and Joanne Woodward to be a bit above the ordinary. And you'd
"I had a lot of pets growing up. A menagerie! Ferrets, a lot
of baby birds, a Harris hawk, five cats and a pack of dogs"
relates Nell Newman in her book The Newman's Own Organics Guide
to a Good Life.
When Newman was 10 years old she found out peregrine falcons
were extinct east of the Mississippi River. That discovery
proved the catalyst for her zealous concern for the
environment. It also led her to earn a Bachelor of Science
degree in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic and to
work with raptors as a child and professionally.
Newman's experiences caused her to believe animals display
conspicuous health and vitality when they are fed what they
would instinctively feed on in the wildan unadulterated diet of
natural foods. "A peregrine falcon is near the top of the food
chain," she reasons. "In a way, so are dogs." Why not feed
pets, then, the healthiest, most natural foods available?
Thus emerged Newman's Own Organics Premium Pet Foods.
Paul Newman had proved a hard sell when it came to adding an
organic line to his popular Newman's Own brand. An all-organic
Thanksgiving meal finally sold him on the idea, proving organic
need not translate into "hippie-dippy dishes," in Nell's words.
His organic education soon followed when he hired his daughter
and her business partner, Peter Meehan, to research the market
for organic food products. Newman's Own Organics was off and
running in 1993. It became a separate company in 2001.
The move into organic petfood in 2003 was a logical
progression. The complete line of dry and canned foods for dogs
and cats, plus dog treats, are made with at least 70% organic
ingredients. The products are also processed according to
standards from the US Department of Agriculture National
Organic Program and certified by Oregon Tilth, a third-party,
nonprofit certifying agency for organic farmers.
"The whole petfood industry is growing with organic," Nell
Newman says. "And the organic food industry as a whole has seen
double-digit growth annually since 1990."
"Organic is a niche within a niche," notes L. Phillips
Brown, DVM, research and product consultant for Newman's Own
Organics' petfood division. "A lot of folks don't realize the
difference between natural and organic."
Natural is one of the more dynamic segments of the petfood
market, Brown points out. Sales of natural petfood products
grew nealy 70% from 2001 to 2005 and are projected to continue
to grow 15% annually through 2010, according to Packaged Facts.
The entire petfood industry grew 23% between 2001 and 2005,
with growth hovering at 4 to 5% annually.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports a 17% increase
in sales in the organic industry in 2005 and total organic
sales of US$14.6 billion. Last year, organic petfoods tallied
US$30 million in sales, a 46% increase over the previous year,
according to OTA.
Though the privately owned Newman's Own Organics does not
share its sales figures, Newman claims the company has posted
double-digit growth since its inception and that petfood sales
have kept pace, with solid growth every year.
To qualify for organic certification, Newman's Own Organics
petfoods cannot contain conventional pesticides or herbicides,
synthetic fertilizers, sew-age sludge, genetically modified
organisms, ionizing radiation, antibiotics or growth
Manufacturing facilities must be carefully selected and
strictly inspected. (The company's petfoods are co-packed.)
Unfortunately, demand for organic products has outstripped
the agricultural supply, according to Newman and Brown. That
fact continues to plague the industry and ensures products will
sell for premium prices for years to come, Brown says.
Newman's Own prides itself on the wholesomeness of the
ingredients in its petfood formulations. Products are made with
human-grade chicken, chicken meal or fish meal and organic
grains and vegetables. Other premium ingredients include
flaxseed meal, brown rice, antioxidants, organic barley, milo,
oats, carrots, potatoes and chelated minerals.
"Our products were human grade from the start," says Newman.
"Once I found out that 'by-product' on a label could mean
beaks and feet and entrails going into petfoods, I thought, We
can do it better.'"
The line has benefited from face time from its namesake, who
recently endorsed the premium petfood line in a rare television
appearance. Prodded by host Jay Leno and a US$10 bet on the
Tonight Show, Paul Newman ate from a can of the chicken and
brown rice dog food before millions of late-night viewers.
Organic purchases reflect the lifestyle preferences of pet
owners. Many are ardent about their choice of organic, which is
often tied to their values and belief systems.
Brown believes that owners who opt for organic tend to
purchase premium petfoods. Newman's Own dog foods are geared to
lifestage categories: adult for dogs up to 7 years old, senior
for dogs older than 7 and puppy/active. Cat foods are similarly
divided into adult/kitten and senior cat categories. Dog treats
are offered in four flavors for small and medium/large
"We like foods geared to lifestyle, and lifestage choices
are part of that," says Brown.
Like the rest of the products bearing the Newman's Own brand
in retail outlets, the petfood line has benefited from Newman
philanthropy. "Initially we rode on Dad's coattails," says
Newman. "But now we are riding our high-quality products."
Newman also credits owner satisfaction for the repeat sales.
"We get E-mail that is quite remarkable," she says. "For
example, 'We put our pet on your petfood and her skin
sores dried up.' It sounds made up. But the messages are
sincere. Petfood is an important part of a pet's life."