"We have come full circle," actor and philanthropist Paul Newman said in a press release. "We are back to wine bottles but this time we are filling them with a wine that will complement my salad dressing and pasta sauce. Wine was the only thing missing at dinner time. Now the meal is complete."
The Westport, Conn.-based food company has joined forces with Rebel Wine Co., a St. Helena, Calif., joint venture between Three Thieves and Trinchero Family Estates. The wine will hit store shelves in March, at $16 per bottle. As usual, the profits and royalties after taxes will be donated to educational and charitable organizations.
"I think the concept of celebrity-branded alcohol is interesting," said Arthur Shapiro, a wine and spirits industry consultant and former Seagram's executive. "It certainly worked for [director Francis Ford] Coppola."
Mr. Shapiro added that golfer Greg Norman has enjoyed success with his own eponymous wine label. But in these cases, Messrs. Coppola and Norman raise their own grape, while Mr. Newman is licensing his name. Coppola labels retail for $10 to $30 per bottle, while Mr. Norman's wine sells for $17 to $20 per bottle. Both also sell higher-priced reserve labels.
The Newman's Own wine's price point is also well above the partnering labels' average cost. Three Thieves sells wine in boxes and jugs for $10 to $13. Trinchero Family wine sells for about $12 per regular bottle, but $30 to $50 per bottle of the winery's reserve.
Mr. Shapiro said that the price could be an issue.
"I'm not sure they can get $16," he said. "What's so special about it other than the name and the charities associated with it? I'm not sure that's good enough for consumers without another unique selling proposition associated with it."
Mr. Newman has a very successful sales record -- not to mention extraordinary popularity -- on his side.
Newman's Own has donated more than $200 million to various charities since it was founded in 1982. Among Mr. Newman's charities is the Hole in the Wall Gang, a three-season camp for children with cancer and serious blood diseases. The company, which got started selling salad dressings in antique glass bottles covered in parchment paper, now has 100 types of all-natural food and beverage products, including pasta sauce, salsa, marinades, cookies, lemonade, popcorn and pet food.
In recent years, the company has become increasingly focused on organics, and snagged coveted shelf space in high-priced natural and organic groceries.