Paul McCartney has been in the news this week as The Times is serialising his new book The Lyrics : 1956 to Present. In today’s excerpt the headline was ‘Linda really helped me find another side of myself’, so Giles and I thought it would be a great time to share the inspirational story of Linda McCartney and how Linda McCartney Foods was created and is still going from strength to strength today.
Linda McCartney was an amazing, multitalented woman. She was a professional photographer. She was a talented musician and entertainer. She won an Oscar as cowriter of the award-winning song, ‘Live and Let Die.’ She became a well-known animal welfare activist.
She overcame the initial resentment of millions of young female Beatles’ fans who were heartbroken when she married Paul McCartney in March 1969.
And if that wasn’t enough, she became a successful author and entrepreneur.
The origins of the brand that was to carry her name began around the kitchen table. Sir Paul recounted the story to Nigel Slater in The Observer, 29 April 2007:
“We were in the kitchen at the farm, sitting down to the usual roast Sunday lunch, and through the window we could see all these little lambs, a great big gang of them, doing that cute thing that lambs do, you know, where they all run to one end of the field like this … ” At which point Slater says Paul stopped talking and did a quick lollop-y impersonation of the lambs gambolling, before continuing, “And then they all ran back to the other end of the field. They were having a great time. And we just looked down at the leg of lamb on our plates. We made the connection and that was it. Linda picked up the ball. We decided then and there to give up eating meat.”
The second chapter of the brand’s origins came about as Linda worked on ways to fill what the family call “the hole in the plate” – the place where the meat had formally been. She worked on a plethora of recipes, introducing her family and Paul to new ideas. “I’d never had quiche, it wasn’t the sort of thing we grew up eating in Liverpool,” Paul told Slater.
She soon had a collection of tried, tested and tasty recipes and approached a publisher who readily agreed to publish Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking. It was subsequently published in the UK by the then fledgling publisher Bloomsbury in 1989 and sold 400,000 copies. It is still one of the bestselling vegetarian cookbooks ever in the UK. Subsequent books followed.
With increasing time pressure and improvements in the quality of prepared foods, Linda McCartney Foods was established by Paul and Linda. On 30 April 1991, at The Savoy Hotel, Linda McCartney and her family launched her meat-free brand.
The original range comprised a range of frozen vegetarian products including golden nuggets, ploughman’s pie (cheese pie), ploughman’s pasties, lasagne, Italian style toppers and beefless burgers. The recipes were based on dehydrated textured vegetable protein (TVP).
Some of the sales proceeds were to go toward McCartney to develop the range further and to fund her animal aid charity, Animal Line.
The packaging graphics were designed by Springett Associates and featured Linda McCartney’s portrait and signature, a black-and-white illustration by artist Jonathan Mercer and the Vegetarian Society’s seal of approval.
The ready meals were manufactured by frozen food company Ross Young’s and were the first to not feature either the Ross or the Young’s brand name.
Ownership of the brand has changed hands a number of times across the years. It became part of United Biscuits’ McVitie’s Prepared Foods division in March 1996. It was then sold in December 1999 to H.J. Heinz Co.
It was sold again in 2006 to the Hain Celestial Group. The McCartney family, however, remains involved in its development.
Sadly, Linda is no longer directly involved. In 1995, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and died from the disease in 1998 at the age of 56.
Her memory and her brand live on – on the current website it says: “An original food pioneer, Linda McCartney believed in great-tasting, honest, meat-free food and the shared pleasure that eating well could bring.”
It goes on to say that those involved in the brand today, including the McCartney Family, are dedicated to sharing Linda’s passion for wholesome cooking with everyone. “We are inspired daily by Linda’s enthusiasm for celebrating life through good food. And so, our unique range never compromises on taste or quality and is made with care and compassion.”