Newman's Own, Kettle Foods, and Naked Juice In Sync with Customers

Newman's Own Organics, Kettle Foods and Naked Juice are in sync with their customers in ways envied by mega competitors.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Vowing to stay forever young, the eldest of the baby boomer generation - people born in 1946 to 1964 - hit a milestone this year: They celebrate their 60th birthday. Perhaps after watching the ageless Rolling Stones during halftime of the Super Bowl, they are also rethinking the lyrics, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" from another iconic 1960s band, the Beatles.

Those 3.4 million Americans born in 1946 are not ready to retire or become more retiring. In fact, they have redefined aging. They've been hippies and yuppies, and now it's the time of the "abbies": aging baby boomers, reports Newsweek. Boomers define "old age" as starting three years after the average American is dead, according to a Yankelovich Partners study. With an actuarial life expectancy of 82.3, boomers don't consider themselves bound by the laws of statistics, and they expect advances in health care and genomics will enable them to live past 100.

And they prefer to feed themselves, not just when they're 64 but way beyond. So the rush is on to buy wellness foods, cosmeceuticals and nutraceuticals. These divine boomers, whose feet are pounding the firmament as they run to stay in shape, are convinced there is a connection between what you eat and how you look and feel. Abbies are also the inspiration for younger consumers to age not gracefully, but instead to live adventurous, youthful, extended lives by nourishing the spirit, mind and body.

Boomers also have a growing sense of social responsibility. If they must turn the world over to their children, they want to give them a world that's in better shape than when the boomers inherited it. At this stage in their lives, with the kids' college bills forgotten and a sub-$100,000 mortgage nearly paid off, they can afford to spend a little more on their own health and a healthier world.

It's wonderful coincidence that our choices for rising stars are companies founded by boomers making products largely for boomers. But they also embody a passionate philosophy that connects with other consumers, as well. Newman's Own Organics is redefining the organic category by mixing environmental consciousness with the parent firm's social responsibility mission. Kettle Foods' natural/organic message puts a healthy spin on potato chips, then adds unusual flavors. And Naked Juice is helping to define the superpremium juice segment with products fitting a spectrum of lifestyle needs.

Newman's Own Organics: Contributing to a healthy ecosystem

Organic-food advocate Nell Newman learned values of social responsibility, political involvement and philanthropy from her famous parents, actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. But it is her passion and commitment to the environment, organic foods and sustainable agriculture that led her and business partner Peter Meehan in 1993 to found Newman's Own Organics: The Second Generation – at the time, the organic food division of her father's successful (and philanthropic) company, Newman's Own.

Nell rallied to get her father to add an organic line to Newman's Own, but whenever she brought up the subject, he dismissed it. "To him, organic foods referred to the hippie-dippy dishes my mom experimented with in the '60s, like nut loaf with yeast gravy," says Nell, with a smile. "My mission was to change his mind."


Rising Stars: Nell Newman (Newman's Own Organics)
"It's fairly obvious one can't be a perfect environmentalist," says Nell. "Perfection isn't the goal; a good life is. And a good life has a lot to do with who you are in the world, with intent as much as with the end result."

She did, and today Newman's Own Organics products resonate with consumers, proving that timing, persistence and great tasting products are the ingredients for success. "We knew there was a market for organic snack foods, but couldn't have anticipated just how quickly the demand for our products would grow," says Nell, partner, product developer and president. With more than 100 products, Newman's Own Organics is one of the strongest organic brands.

In fact, meteoric success led to the division's spinoff as an independent company, based in Aptos, Calif., in 2001. The unit remains closely tied to Newman's Own, and like its parent, all royalty payments after taxes are donated to educational and charitable organizations. Since 1982, thousands of charities worldwide have been the recipients of more than $200 million from the coffers of Newman's Own.

"‘Great tasting products that happen to be organic' is our slogan, and it really says a lot about us," says Nell. "We've seen that people increasingly want to know more about the food they eat, not just how many calories a product contains. It's becoming more important to them how ingredients are grown and processed on the way to their grocer's shelf."

Nell says she was lucky to have grown up in an old colonial farmhouse with a garden and a few apple trees. "My mom taught me to cook at an early age, and the ingredients we used came from our garden," she says. "The fruit ended up in our pies, and the eggs laid by our chickens went into cakes and omelets. My father taught me to fish, and we polished off what I plucked out of the Aspetuck River in Connecticut with corn and tomatoes from a local farm stand. My pa always had a good eye for produce. Early on, he showed me how to thump a melon."

Spreading the environmental message is dear to Nell's heart. An avid student of biology, she has a B.S. in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine. She worked for the Environmental Defense Fund in New York, moved west to head the Ventana Wilderness Sanctuary (working to reestablish the bald eagle in central California) and later did fund-raising for the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research group. Outdoors is where she prefers to be. She's a licensed falconer, and a few years back this baby boomer took up surfing to help her focus and stay in shape.

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