By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 14, 2016
Credit: Chicago Tribune

Since its launch in the 1980s, Newman’s Own has always had a unique mission: sell an array of quality-oriented groceries – salad dressing, pasta sauce, microwavable popcorn – and then give all of the profits to charity. Somewhat implicit in that model is that if the question ever comes up, “Wait, why give all the profits to charity?” the answer is pretty obvious: “Paul Newman is a famous actor who was super rich and didn’t need any of your damn money!” But there’s been a snag as of late: Millennials don’t know who Paul Newman is.

In a recent article entitled “Paul Newman Who? Salad Dressing Company Adjusts to Reach Millennials,” the New York Times looked into the difficulty in sell a product based around an actor who’s been dead for over eight years and whose best known hits were long before many shoppers were born. (I guess eating 50 eggs in Cool Hand Luke is worth nothing these days!) The irony is that millennials are especially receptive to brands with a philanthropic mission. “This is a perfect example of a great model that is not positioned well for the generation they’re trying to influence,” Jason Dorsey, a researcher at the consulting group Center of Generational Kinetic, told the NYT.

Though from a filmatic standpoint, millennials could probably benefit from being forced to watch classics like The Hustler, Newman’s Own has decided to take a different approach towards educating younger customers. Though the packaging has always stated “All Profits to Charity,” the brand is unleashing a new label that makes the charity proclamation more prominent and tweaks the language to the more “definitive” and “unambiguous” version “100 Percent to Charity.” According to the company, only 12 percent of millennials knew how much of Newman’s Own’s profits the company donated.

The brand also launched a video campaign that doesn’t touch on the products at all, instead focusing solely on the company’s charitable focus – things like giving guide dogs to blind veterans or building a girls’ school in Kenya.

Refocusing the company’s message is important. According to the Times, Newman’s Own continues to donate about $28 million per year to charity since the actor’s passing in 2008 – meaning that a large amount of money is at stake. And sadly it doesn’t sound like they’ll be able to make up the shortfall by selling Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Blu-rays.