(Oct. 8) APTOS, Calif. — Consumers learned of the Newman’s Own label with a line of salad dressings in 1982.

Then Newman’s Own Organics launched items from organic pretzels to dog food. And by the end of the year, consumers should start seeing Newman’s Own organic produce.

Newman’s Own Organics, which spun off the original company in 2000, is working with Monterey-based FoodSource Organics to produce and sell a line of organic fruits and vegetables.

The initial line will feature organic carrots, fresh-cut carrots and a variety of salads, but once the label is established it will expand to offer more vegetables, fruit and fresh-cut fruit, said Peter Meehan, chief executive officer.

Newman’s Own Organics also is working with National Raisin Co., Fowler, to launch a line of organic dried fruit that should appear in stores during the first quarter of 2005.

Retailers will have a chance to meet Newman’s Own Organics representatives at a party at the Produce Marketing Association and at the National Raisin booth, Meehan said.

Citing the company’s organic versions of Fig Newtons (Fig Newmans) and Oreo (Newman-Os) cookies, Meehan said Newman’s Own Organics has focused on introducing organic versions of products that consumers are used to eating.

“We have a chocolate peanut butter cup,” he said. “We want people to know that they don’t have to give anything up to eat organic. And so we looked at produce, which was a logical step, and the light bulb went on.”

That was about five years ago. But it wasn’t until Tom Minnich, chief executive officer for FoodSource Inc., contacted Newman’s Own Organics that Meehan found a likeminded company.

FoodSource had done a study on the viability of building organic brands or expanding existing brands to include produce and saw the potential with Newman’s Own Organics, Meehan said.

FoodSource Organics, a private-label organics division of FoodSource Inc., has established a Newman’s Own Organics Fresh Produce division to handle the sales, marketing and distribution of the product.

Founder Paul Newman has donated all royalty payments after taxes to charities — more than $150 million so far — and he will continue to do so with Newman’s Own Organics.

Meehan said he expects the first shipments of Newman’s Own Organics products to begin in December. The entire product line should be available year-round, he said.

Nell Newman, co-founder and president of Newman’s Own Organics, said the continued growth in organic salads makes now a good time to begin selling a name brand line of organic products.

Packaged salads comprise the bulk of the initial line.

The organic line consists of baby spring mix, baby spinach, herb salad mix, baby romaine, baby arugula, chopped romaine, Italian salad and sweet baby lettuces, as well as romaine hearts, cut and peeled baby carrots and carrots.

The salads come in 5-ounce bags with suggested retail prices of $2.29-2.99, 5-ounce clamshells with suggested prices of $2.39-3.09 and 1-pound club packs with suggested prices of $3.69-4.99.

The romaine hearts come in three-count bags with suggested prices of $1.79-2.29. The baby carrots come in 1-pound bags with a suggested price of $1.29-1.99. The carrots come in 1-pound bags with a suggested price of 79 cents to 99 cents or 5-pound bags with a suggested price of $2.99-3.79.