Crooner Pat Boone Launches All-American Meats

Pat Boone is famous for his gospel and pop songs from the 1950s. But now he wants to be known for his rib-eyes and porterhouses. He's launching a line of meat products. Boone hopes to become the conservative Paul Newman, giving away some of the profits to feed the hungry and support other causes.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

So maybe at your nearest A&P, you could drop by and get some celebrity-endorsed food. Celebrities love to put their names on foods product. Think of George Foreman and his grill; or Paul Newman and his salad dressing and other products. Reggie Jackson has his own candy bar, and Jimmy Dean was perhaps more famous for his sausages than his country music songs. Now, another famous crooner is trying his hand at food branding. The '50s singer Pat Boone is coming out with a line of meat products. Repeating this bulletin for those who may have missed it: Pat Boone, meat products.

NPR's Robert Smith sniffed out the story and sent us this report on the business of celebrity food.

ROBERT SMITH: Pat Boone recorded more than 1,500 songs - none of them, as far as I can tell, about meat or meat by-products unless you count this one.

(Soundbite of song, "I'll Meet You In The Morning")

Mr. PAT BOONE (Singer, Businessman): (Singing) I'll meet you in the morning, with a...

SMITH: And yet, now this gospel and early rock and roll star has his name on a line of rib-eyes and porterhouses: Pat Boone's All-American Meats, available online.

Now this does raise a couple of questions. First of all, is Pat Boone still kicking?

Mr. BOONE: All of my life, people have asked: Why do you look younger than we know you are?

SMITH: Yes, he's now a healthy 76 years old and still performing - which leads us to question number two: What does singing have to do with selling meat?

Mr. BOONE: These friends of mine in Colorado were looking for an iconic image for it, somebody that people will trust if he says they're the best meats in the world, with a strong charitable component: good, conservative, traditional causes - mainly feeding the hungry.

SMITH: Five percent of each meat purchase will go to charities like Mercy Corps and Focus on the Family. In short, Pat Boone wants to become the conservative Paul Newman.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOONE: Well, that would suit my fine. Now, Paul and I laughed and talked about it, because we were friends.

(Soundbite of song, "Tutti Frutti")

Mr. BOONE: (Singing) A-bop-bop, a-loo-mop, a-lop-bop-bop. Tutti Frutti...

SMITH: Pat Boone has a track record of twisting a good idea and making it a hit. Listen to what he did to Little Richard's music in 1956.

(Soundbite of song, "Tutti Frutti")

Mr. BOONE: (Singing) A-bop-bop, a-loo-mop, a-lop-bop-bop. I got a gal, her name's Sue. She knows just what...

SMITH: But remaking Paul Newman's success is a little more difficult. Other than Jimmy Dean sausages and Newman's Own line of salad dressings and snacks, you'd be hard-pressed to find singers and actors on food labels.

Mr. BILL CROSS vice (Vice President, Broad Street Licensing Group): There's some economic realities.

SMITH: Bill Cross is the vice president of Broad Street Licensing Group. They help brand food products. Cross says that celebrities usually gravitate to clothing and luxury items because it's relatively easy to jump into that business.

Mr. CROSS: Basically, fashion is about what's hot now. And what's that line from "Project Runway"? Today, you're in; tomorrow, you're out.

SMITH: But you can't just dabble in food products. You have to be make sure that it's safe and affordable. And it needs to squeeze into a very crowded marketplace.

Mr. CROSS: Especially with traditional grocery stores, you have to pay to get your products in there. It's called slotting fees. You essentially say to a Safeway or a Kroger: I will pay you a million dollars to have my brand on your store shelves.

SMITH: Bill Cross says he's tried to work with celebrity chefs, who you think would be a natural to get into the grocery stores. But they often don't want to endorse a product that's cheap enough to make it in the brutal retail industry. So how did Paul Newman do it? Let's go to the movie clip.

(Soundbite of movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid")

Mr. PAUL NEWMAN (Actor): (as Butch Cassidy) You got to plan more. You got to prepare more. Maybe there's a way to make a profit in this.

SMITH: You see, Butch Cassidy wanted to make money, but Paul Newman positioned his food products with the unheard-of step of giving away all the profits. The CEO of the Newman's Own Foundation, Bob Forrester, says the philanthropy part can look easy, but making good food is the real challenge.

Mr. BOB FORRESTER (CEO, Newman's Own Foundation): If I were to start a company, I wouldn't be in the food business. Even though it's good from the point of view that people will always need to eat, it's just a tough, tough, tough business, and you're going up against some very, very big companies.

SMITH: So Forrester has some advice for Pat Boone and his new meat business.

Mr. FORRESTER: Do things that you believe in - not just the philanthropic part, but believe in the product that you're dealing with as opposed to just saying, well, let's put our name on meat, and see how it works.

SMITH: Because there's always a more famous name out there. Donald Trump has tried to market steaks. Martha Stewart is experimenting with gourmet meat products. But Pat Boone thinks that he has an edge with the conservative crowd. He's recently been active in the Tea Party, and he started the Beverly Hills Branch, and he's long funded Christian causes. Boone and his business partner, J.W. Roth, admit that this might turn some customers off, but Roth is willing to take the chance.

Mr. J.W. ROTH (Partner, Pat Boone's All-American Meats): If I can have a 100 percent market share of real loyal conservative customers, a lot of times it's better to take that position than try to be everything to everybody.

SMITH: In a way, it's a lot like Pat Boone's career. The loyal fans will seek him out. Now, it's just a matter of seeing how many there are.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of song, "Tutti Frutti")

Mr. BOONE: (Singing) Tutti Frutti, all rootie, a-bop-bop, a-loo-mop, a-lop-bam-boom.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Correction Dec. 13, 2010

An earlier Web description of this story inaccurately characterized Mercy Corps as "a conservative Christian" organization. Mercy Corps is a non-political and non-religious humanitarian organization.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: