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    COVER STORY: Where charitable works

    Many in the food industry have dedicated their business know-how to making the world a better place.

    By Jane Olszeksi Tortola

    Nell Newman is known not only for her famous last name, but also for being one of the most generous entrepreneurs in the food industry. Gary Hirshberg has donated millions to charity through Stonyfield Farm's Profit For The Planet Program. And making Kentucky's storied blue grass a little greener is Annie Faragher Bennett, who gave up her career as a social worker to "bake a better world" at Our Family Farm.

    While their company size, geographic regions, and philanthropic interests may vary, one thing these food industry leaders and the others profiled below have in common is their passion for helping others and a desire to make the world a better place for future generations.

    This month they share with Progressive Grocer the events that have shaped their lives, careers, and business philosophies. And, in so doing, we're reminded that it's in giving that we truly receive.
    Newman's Own Organics: The Second Generation

    From the time she was a little girl, Nell Newman was fascinated by nature. Growing up in Connecticut, she spent a lot of time playing in the woods and became intrigued by birds. At age 14 she talked her parents into getting her a hawk and learned falconry.

    Newman never dreamed that her love of the environment would someday lead to her becoming the co-founder and president of one of the most admired and successful food companies in the country, Newman's Own Organics.

    After earning a degree in ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, Newman, a daughter of acclaimed actress Joanne Woodward and film legend/entrepreneur Paul Newman, worked briefly for the Environmental Defense Fund in New York. She then moved to northern California and served as the executive director of the Ventana Wilderness Sanctuary, which was working to re-establish the bald eagle in central California. Two and a half years later she began fundraising for the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group.

    "I'd become a frustrated fundraiser, and that's why I started Newman's Own Organics," Newman laughs. "I always admired my father for starting his own food company, Newman's Own, and I thought to myself, 'I'd like to do what Pa does.'"

    What has "Pa" Newman done? According to his daughter, "Through the sale of his products, he's donated over $150 million to charitable causes throughout the world."

    She adds: "When my dad first started marketing his salad dressings, the product labels didn't indicate that he was donating money to charity. He didn't want the notoriety. But I convinced him that people would be interested in knowing about his charitable giving."

    Inspired by her father's success and generosity, Newman teamed up with a partner, Peter Meehen, and in 1993, with the support of Paul Newman, they launched Newman's Own Organics: The Second Generation. The company, which is headquartered in Aptos, Calif., has introduced over 60 organic products to the market, including cookies, pretzels, chips, coffee, candy, and olive oil. A premium line of pet food was launched last year.

    'Great expectations'

    For the use of his face and name on the packaging of Newman's Own Organics, Paul Newman receives a 6 percent royalty fee that he personally donates to charity.

    "Recipients vary," Nell Newman says. "For example, my dad has donated funds to the Organic Farming Research Foundation; the Painted Turtle Camp; the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut; the Grey Bears of Santa Cruz, a nonprofit group that shares fresh produce with senior citizens; and camps for kids living in Ireland and France who have life-threatening diseases. The list goes on and on."

    Reflecting on the success of her company, Newman says, "We've been lucky in that retailers were open to our products from the beginning, because of the name. But the competitive edge came for us when people knew that we produced great-tasting products that just happened to be organic."

    She concludes: "My partner, Pete, often reminds me that being charitable can be very difficult unless you're a successful company. We have great expectations for Newman's Own Organics. We want to grow this business and make a difference by supporting a variety of environmental causes."

    Endangered Species Chocolate Co.

    When Jon Stocking set sail on a tuna boat years ago to earn money to further his studies in Europe, he had no idea how the experience would someday shape his life. Hired to serve as a cook on the vessel, Stocking, who was living in California at the time, grew increasingly troubled by what he deemed the "callous disregard for ocean life."

    "What bothered me the most was witnessing hundreds of dolphins routinely being trapped in the boat's fishing nets," he says. "One day, while working at the front of the boat, I spotted a baby dolphin being pummeled to death. Instinctively I leaped out of the boat to save it. Mind you, there were sharks, other dolphins, and tuna trapped in the net. My actions certainly were not popular with the crew, but I managed to set the baby dolphin free."

    For Stocking the event was an epiphany: "It was then that I made the decision to devote my life to helping the environment and protecting endangered species."

    Stocking, a Paris-trained chef who once operated a successful Hollywood catering business, decided a decade ago to combine his culinary talents and his concern for the environment by establishing the Endangered Species Chocolate Co.

    A privately held food company based in Oregon, Endangered Species donates at least 10 percent of its after-tax profits to a variety of worldwide environmental groups, including the Jane Goodall Institute, the American Cetacean Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation.

    "My friendship with Jane Goodall has been so inspiring," Stocking says. "She's taught me a new way of doing things. For example, it was Jane who helped me to realize the real value of in-kind donations. Each year, instead of making cash donations to numerous charitable groups, Endangered Species gives away hundreds of thousands of chocolate bars. In so doing, we're forcing our product into the commerce and we're teaching fundraising groups a valuable lesson on how to earn money by selling our products."

    By the end of 2004 Endangered Species, now the No. 1 brand of organic chocolate in North America, will expand its operation when it moves into a new 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that will feature a retail store. "We have a mature brand, and our growth has been consistent," Stocking notes. "Some of our most popular items include the Rainforest Bar, Chimpanzee Bar, Dolphin Bar, Wolf Bar, Grizzly Bar, organic Zebra Baby Bar, and organic Koala Baby Bar."

    He adds: "We're not just a chocolate bar. Endangered Species is a quality product that has an original, eye-appealing package; we provide education about endangered species on our wrappers; and we donate money to great causes so you can feel good about eating chocolate. Sales have increased 50 percent to 62 percent each year during the past decade -- and we're proud to be making a difference, one chocolate bar at a time."

    Regarding the success of his growing company, Stocking concludes, "I believe that the path you take in life ends up taking you sometimes. That's what happened to me."

    Our Family Farm

    For Annie Faragher Bennett and Teri Faragher, baking is a philanthropic act. The sisters, who both trained as social workers, and their late father are the co-founders of Our Family Farm, a Newport, Ky.-based company recognized for its social activism and charitable giving to organizations that protect, nurture, and empower children.

    "Our Family Farm was literally the dream of our father, Ray Faragher, who passed away in 2001," says Bennett, who left her job as the executive director of First Step in 2001 to become the president of the family business. "Dad, who was a successful businessman and social activist known for helping people both locally and around the world, woke up one morning and shared with us a dream he had about angel cookies. As crazy as it sounds, he had a vision that the cookies would in some way be used to help people."

    Thus was born Our Family Farm, an organic food company that donates 100 percent of its net profits after expenses to children's charities. The Our Family Farm brand of natural, kosher-certified snacks and cookies is sold nationally in select supermarkets such as Kroger, Ukrop's, Wegmans, Foodtown, and Cost Plus; Whole Foods and other natural food stores; and specialty food outlets.

    "In April we kicked off our 'Making A Difference In Children's Nutrition' campaign, which is an educational outreach program designed to change eating patterns of children in America," Bennett notes. "We're offering to schools, day care centers, and parent/children's organizations free information packets with ideas for how families can make better nutritional choices both at home and at school."

    She adds: "In giving, we become a part of the solution. That was my father's dream when he started Our Family Farm."

    Giving seems to be a way of life for the Faragher family. "Growing up, we witnessed my parents helping others in so many ways," Bennett recalls. "As a child my dad experienced poverty and alcohol abuse. Because he had such a rough childhood, he was determined to someday make a difference for others."

    She continues: "After building a successful bath goods business which was showcased in New York, Dad chose to share his wealth with others by building houses for the homeless in Kentucky and helping those in need in his own quiet way. He never belonged to country clubs -- he liked giving money away. He once bought a van for a woman struggling with multiple sclerosis, and he and my mom even built a school for 200 girls in India. Having visited the country and being appalled at the poverty and lack of educational opportunities for girls, they contacted the Sisters of Notre Dame in Chardon, Ohio, who helped them to establish 'India Mission.'"

    And so the giving continues. Running Our Family Farm in Kentucky, Bennett says she's having the time of her life. "I feel a sense of purpose because I can see that we're a company that's really making a difference," she says.

    Giant Eagle, Inc.

    Of course, it's not just food companies that are doing the giving. Recognized as one of the most innovative retailers in the Midwest, Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, Inc. is also one of the most generous.

    "Our company has a long history of supporting the communities where we live and operate," says Rob Borella, director of corporate communications, "and that goes back some 73 years."

    Last year the Giant Eagle Foundation, which was established by the company's owners and is respected for its support of a broad range of cultural, social, and economic causes, contributed $1 million to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for cancer research, not to mention the $22 million worth of computers and school equipment individual Giant Eagle stores have donated to local schools over the past 16 years through the company's Apples For Students program. Additionally, Giant Eagle employees have contributed over $2 million to this year's United Way campaign.

    "As our company has grown, especially during the past few years, it was important to put into place a strategy with regard to charitable giving," Borella notes. "In the past, Giant Eagle as an organization tended to say yes to everything that came our way. However, in order to maximize the return for our company and our community partners, we found it necessary to define our core values and to develop a corporate responsibility framework."

    According to Borella, those core values include the following:

    -Hunger relief


    -Support for the community

    -Family health and wellness

    "After we determine that a charitable request matches at least one of our values, we then put the opportunity through a community relations scorecard that's based on a dozen or so factors such as how strongly does it meet our core values, is there a relationship between the organization requesting a contribution and Giant Eagle, and can the contribution be made as turnkey as possible while delivering maximum value to the community. Obviously, the higher score a group receives, the more resources we allocate to the cause -- and vice versa, " Borella explains.

    Adds Tina Thompson, marketing manager for community relations, "We meet once a week to evaluate all charitable opportunities, and respond in writing within two weeks of receiving the request."

    She continues: "Because we operate supermarkets in four states, we feel it's important for each store to have its own separate donation budget. In addition to what we contribute as a corporation, our store directors have the autonomy to support local causes."

    Philanthropic mission

    According to Thompson, a 15-year veteran of the company, Giant Eagle has developed and participates in a variety of programs that supports the company's philanthropic mission, including United Way's Day of Caring; Race For The Cure in Pittsburgh and Cleveland; Be A Smart Shopper, a program led by the company's registered dietitian, Judy Dodd, to teach children about healthy eating and nutrition; and in-store health fairs planned in conjunction with Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; the Cleveland Clinic; and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

    "Last year our stores were also the single largest contributor in our marketing area to the Second Harvest Food Drive," Thompson says. "We contributed over 6 million pounds of food valued at over $9 million."

    She concludes: "Whether our foundation is donating thousands to cancer research, or our employees are participating in local blood drives, I can't help but think of words recently spoken by our chairman, David Shapira, who said, 'We do these things because we gain benefit from them -- and even if we didn't, we'd do them anyway.' "

    Athena Water

    According to Greek mythology, Athena represents wisdom and is a patroness of agriculture and women's crafts. Despite her status as a goddess of defensive warfare, she's often depicted carrying an olive branch, a symbol of peace and plenty. Athena is also known for her healing powers.

    It was with this goddess in mind that the former marketing manager of Microsoft, Trish May, a cancer survivor, developed her new product, Athena Water.

    Launched in July 2003, Athena Water made its debut in western Washington Safeway and QFC stores, Tully's, the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Evergreen Hospital. All proceeds from the product, which is treated by a state-of-the-art reverse-osmosis process and purified through ozonation, are devoted to finding a cure for breast and gynecological cancers.

    "Since introducing Athena Water last summer, we've had extraordinary success in placing it in retail stores and nonfood establishments," says May, founder and c.e.o. of Athena Partners. "During our first six months we sold over a half a million bottles, and we currently maintain 5 percent of the bottled water market in the Washington area. Next on our agenda is to expand into the state of Oregon, with our ultimate goal being to sell the product nationally."

    May, who earned her MBA from the University of Wisconsin, is no stranger to the food business. Prior to joining Microsoft, she worked in marketing at Golden Grain Co., maker of Rice-A-Roni, which was sold to the Quaker Oats Co. in 1986.

    "I've always had an inclination toward entrepreneurship and new initiatives," she notes. "Having watched what people like Paul and Nell Newman have done with their companies, and having personally been affected by cancer, I was inspired to launch my own effort to help fund cancer research."

    May's innovation and sensitivity are abundantly displayed on her Web site, www.athenapartners.org. "The Web site not only provides information about our product, but it also serves as a cancer resource center and allows cancer survivors to share their inspiring stories. It additionally advises researchers how to apply for grants and funding from our organization."

    May, who organized Athena Partners as a nonprofit 501c(3) foundation, recently awarded her first grants. This past Mother's Day she donated more than $30,000 to Seattle-area researchers dedicated to finding cures for both breast and ovarian cancers.

    "One in five women will be affected by some type of cancer," observes May, whose mother died from ovarian cancer. "My goal in three years is to be able to donate at least $1 million dollars per year to fight this dreaded disease."

    She concludes: "With the kind of money we plan to raise, we believe we can really move the dial and help find a cure for a disease that touches us all."

    Stonyfield Farm

    Once upon a time there were five cows living in a pasture at a place called Stonyfield Farm in Wilton, N.H. The owner of those cows had developed a great yogurt recipe. And so it all began.

    Stonyfield Farm was founded in 1983 by Samuel Kaymen, one of the country's foremost authorities on organic agriculture, and Gary Hirshberg, an environmental activist, author, and noted entrepreneur. The company, which has become one of the top producers of yogurt and ice cream in the United States, is recognized as one of the leading philanthropic organizations in the food industry.

    Now the No. 3 brand of yogurt in the United States, Stonyfield Farm is distributed in leading supermarkets, specialty food stores, colleges, hotels, yogurt shops, and other institutions, as well as nearly every natural food store in all 50 states.

    "Prior to establishing Stonyfield, I was managing nonprofit organizations," says Hirshberg, the company's president and c.e.o. "Interestingly, that experience has been invaluable in building our company. Philanthropy is intrinsic in our mission to change the world, plus it provides for us an excellent branding approach."

    Through its Profits for the Planet Program, Stonyfield, which is privately held and employs 250 associates, has donated in excess of $1.6 million to efforts that help protect and restore the environment. In addition to funds, the company also donates product to eligible recipients.

    "When I introduced our Profits for the Planet Program at the New England Environmental Congress, I told everyone to be sure to include, in their proposals for funding, a component on how my gift will help me to build brand awareness for Stonyfield Farm products," Hirshberg notes. "That was a key tenet in my speech."

    He continues: "Think of it like the oak tree. The purpose of the oak tree is to grow more oak trees. I can cut off a limb to help you -- or I can ask you to help me to plant more acorns."

    He adds: "What I've always tried to explain to my peers in the industry is that philanthropic efforts are a powerful way to build affinity with your consumers, and there's no reason to be bashful. It's probably the most powerful single thing you can do to build goodwill for your brand. I don't think a company should be afraid to make it a two-way street. There's absolutely no reason for the 'you give, they get' philosophy. Everyone you help must in some way reciprocate by building brand loyalty for your products."

    Spreading the wealth

    Hirshberg confirms that there are, on occasion, exceptions to his rule. "There are some causes, like 9/11, where building the brand is not a consideration," he says. "When the terrorist attacks took place in New York City, we loaded tractor-trailers full of product and fed several hundred firefighters and volunteers. There was no payback -- it was just the right thing to do."

    According to Hirshberg, who, along with his sister, Nancy Hirshberg, and his chief of staff, Mary Townsend, manages Stonyfield's charitable giving, one of the company's greatest challenges is distributing money around the country: "Because we're no longer a regional player, we must respond to projects all across America -- and there never seems to be enough money to go around."

    He concludes: "There's a tremendous amount of good and important work to be done when it comes to saving the planet. Stonyfield is not a pure foundation, so it's important for everyone to understand that only by forming partnerships can the acorns get spread around."

    By Jane Olszeksi Tortola
    • About Jane Olszeksi Tortola

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