Nell Newman and Rick Peyser Talk Coffee

Nell Newman and Rick Peyser have formed an enviable partnership that both green and corporate business could learn from. Newman is the founder of Newman’s Own, an organic food company with product offerings including snacks, sauces and their famous salad dressings. Peyser is the Director of Social Advocacy and Public Relations (great title!) for Green Mountain Coffee, a wholesale coffee company with over 20 fair trade and organic coffees. Since 2002, Green Mountain Coffee has partnered with Newman’s Own to create 6 exclusive organic coffees to be sold under the Newman’s brand.

Last Wednesday, they were both hosted by St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA to talk about this unique partnership.

The takeaway from this evening was that, for both of them, the joint venture enabled organic coffee to reach a broader, more mainstream audience. People who weren’t familiar with organic coffee or who couldn’t access it were able to find Newman’s Own coffee in their local grocery stores. This proved to be a natural extension for Newman’s Own, which Newman described as having the goal to produce “great tasting food that just happened to be organic.” Together, Newman and Peyser were able to reach new markets that could support and continue to grow the demand for organic and Fair Trade coffee. The success of this coffee reached new heights when in 2005 it was announced that Newman’s Own organic coffee would supplied to McDonald’s in the Northeast. Today, organic coffee is available in 658 McDonald’s locations in New England.

While the talks from each guest were focused on their coffee partnership, they both gave excellent presentations on their backgrounds, the roots of each company and Fair Trade. What struck me most was their respective enthusiasm for their jobs. It was great to see two people who were both personally and professionally dedicated to the social goals they hope to achieve through business.

Here are some other great notes:

Newman has a background reviving the Peregrine Falcon population in California. During this time, taking eggs from the wilderness to hatch in captivity them release back into the wild, she tested positive for background levels of DDT and other chemicals in her system – just from handling the egg shells. Each bird’s shell had enough chemicals to be considered toxic, and had to be disposed of as such.

Newman’s Own began with a pretzel because it was Nell’s father’s favorite snack.

Newman looked for a coffee partner for a while before working with Green Mountain because she could not find one with not only had good sourcing, but good quality and ideals.

Coffee is the second highest traded commodity in the world; the first is petroleum.

Globally, there are 25 million coffee growers. Including their families, the number of people directly dependent on the coffee trade reaches 100 million, by some estimates.

Many coffee farms in South America find it easy to get Fair Trade certified because they never had enough money to buy pesticides in the first place and have always shade grown their cherries.

2000 coffee cherries = 1 pound of coffee (each cherry is picked by hand).

McDonald’s in New England, without approval from the parent company, approached Newman’s Own and Green Mountain coffee to supply their locations. While this McDonald's branch is incredibly enthused by the popularity of the coffee, there are no plans to expand organic coffee into McDonald’s outside the region.

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