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Top 10 Untold Truths About Ben & Jerry’s

Vermont's Finest: Ben & Jerry's classic ice cream parlor hasn't changed much since 1978. Photo from tweetrush.com

Food

Top 10 Untold Truths About Ben & Jerry’s

Have you been to Ben & Jerry’s yet? This summer, Ben & Jerry’s is the hottest and coolest destination for ice cream lovers everywhere. Even when there’s no Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor near you, you can always troop to the neighborhood grocery store in order to have your fill of patented sheer ice cream heaven. Unknown to many, Ben & Jerry’s unique version of the frozen sweet tooth magnet holds many delightful secrets that can simultaneously titillate the palate and the brain. Let’s begin. Now it can all be told. Here are the top 10 untold truths about Ben & Jerry’s worldwide ice cream hype machine. They’re sure to vanish many of the half truths out there as far as homemade ice cream is concerned.

10. Real People,  Ben & Jerry’s

They’re not every Dick and Harry and definitely not John Does. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were actually childhood friends from Merrick, New York who on May 5, 1978, decided to bet all their combined savings to start a fledgling ice cream business. Luckily, the USD$12,000 and then some gambit paid off for the odd couple. And the rest, of course, was history. Or else, we wouldn’t be here salivating over a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream or a Peanut Butter Cup. Everyone has his or her own favorite version and for this year alone, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream making apparatus is spinning out of control.

Who’s responsible for all this 40-year-old and still going ice cream mayhem and madness in one? Well, Ben & Jerry’s names are still inscribed on every ice cream carton known to every man, woman, and child on the planet. However, the dynamic duo is no longer in control of the show. Worldwide food conglomerate Unilever bought the rights to Ben & Jerry’s homegrown enterprise in 2000 and since then, ice cream flavor access will never be the same. We all hate takeover bids especially the hostile ones. But this one, we can sure thank the heavens for.

9. Why Corporate Takeovers Are So Cool

No way, a corporate takeover bid can be as cool as ice cream. Because without it, the Ben & Jerry’s sweet tooth fury would have only been unleashed in Vermont, and the United States at the most, where the company is still headquartered. With food conglomerate giant Unilever, a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cone or gallon has now been made available to most parts of the world. And the best thing about it is that the Punch and Judy show is still as vibrant as ever. Translation: Even though they don’t have any controlling interest in the worldwide franchise business, Ben & Jerry are still pretty much the mascots of the enterprise, showing up at most new flavor launches and other important functions.

So that makes Ben & Jerry kind of like the queen of England. As the titular heads with absolutely no controlling interest, Ben & Jerry’s benign influence in running a Unilever show is funkier than ever. When the food giant bought out Ben & Jerry’s ice cream game lock, stock, and barrel at the start of the second millennium, the worldwide company swore an oath to uphold the original enterprise’s mission statement. Well, not really in that exact fashion.

It actually happened this way. A Godzilla of a corporation needed a kind of David and Goliath scenario for drama queen purposes. With Ben & Jerry’s enduring reputation as a small yet innovative voice in a burgeoning ice cream industry, a conglomerate would be best served by adding a court jester into the mix.

8. The Then Unknown Comedy Central of the Ice Cream Business

And thus, an alternate reality of sorts was born to perpetuate a virtual dynasty of ice cream coolness. If you weren’t born in 1978 yet, you would have missed all the Ben & Jerry’s antics that had made the ice cream, frozen yoghurt, and sorbet company survive to this day. But no worries. We’re about to recreate them for you.

Let’s begin with Baked Alaska; you know, that ice cream and cake in one with a browned meringue for a topping. Ben and Jerry, through sheer clownishness, would inadvertently turn their so-called Cowmobile into a life-size version of the famous or infamous dessert—and lived to tell about it. After that 1986 clowning glory, Ben and Jerry’s original Cowmobile was no more. The dynamic duo used to tour the country in that mobile home as they sold the gospel of free ice cream to the teeming American masses.

When premium ice cream magnate Häagen-Dazs first got wind of Ben and Jerry’s secret plan to steal the Boston ice cream market like the Death Star, it filed an injunction with the courts in a bid to counter the growing popularity of the duo’s cone, pint, and gallon gambit. But by then it was too late, Ben and Jerry’s had already started the kind of marketing fire that would, to this day, prove effective in creating an insatiable appetite for frozen desserts.

7. Having Fun and a Mission at the Same Time

Ben and Jerry’s absurd marketing antics would fumble from the 1980s and well into the 1990s, but the crowds always forgave every mistake that the odd couple made. After all, the two always made up by giving away free ice cream. And who in the world can resist that temptation? Talk about Free Cone Day, an annual event where the Ben & Jerry team gives away free ice cream to the tune of one million cones annually. Way to go.

Like a live comedy team, the Ben & Jerry tandem would continue to improvise on their marketing gimmickry. Most of the time, however, they were just trying to learn from their very own fumbles and foibles. They were not afraid to make mistakes and for this, the late US president Ronald Reagan would hand them a pint-size trophy in 1988 for entrepreneurial excellence; quite a small feat, but huge in publicity. Definitely, the Ben & Jerry’s brand benefited from showing their vulnerability as well as their combined funny bone. At the same time, however, Ben & Jerry never forgot that they were in this together for a higher purpose. To illustrate, they would pioneer in supporting many charitable and other causes. No matter how unpopular, Ben & Jerry campaigned vigorously as well as openly for LGBTQ rights particularly gay marriage legislation. They also espoused the children’s right not just to enjoy an ice cream cone, but the more important right to have access to all their basic needs. You see, starting the I Scream for Ice Cream lifestyle early is a sound business strategy.

6. Being Arrested For Doing the Right Thing

Ben & Jerry had a blast from the ‘80s and well into the late ‘90s, and it was definitely fun while it lasted. Their combined story would definitely go down in history as the wackiest and wildest way to make homemade ice cream. If you ever come across a mug shot of one or the other, it would help to know that Jerry is the hairier of the two. Some sleuthing with Washington capital police records reveals that early in 2016, the notoriously ice-cream-wielding couple was summarily arrested after participating in a political rally on the US Capitol steps. And for the record, the bad boys also got a spat for naming one of their ice cream incarnations Schweddy Balls just before the turn of the second millennium. I mean, who would name an ice cream like that? Ben & Jerry were trouble from the time they walked in and yet people still bought their ice cream. How could you, me and Irene? It’s just such a big risk, this chance that people are taking all for the love of ice cream. These days,  Ben & Jerry’s even has a scooping station in far-out Singapore.

5. Ben & Jerry’s Not all natural? Go Figure

Oh yeah, caught in the act, this Ben & Jerry’s team. Corn syrup, hello? Serves them right, and so by 2010, Ben & Jerry had to remove the all-natural moniker and hullabaloo from the face of their packaging. I mean, what took the authorities so long? Well, to begin with, this Jekyll & Hyde team is really sly. The two even tried to switch to unbleached carton packaging in 2001, but sooner or later, they had to revert back to the old habit because they just couldn’t afford it. Consumer rights groups even found traces of a herbicide in Ben & Jerry’s products in 2017, but no charges were filed. The Environmental Protection Agency ruled that the use was within the safe levels required by the law.

4. How Can the Ben in Ben & Jerry’s Lose His Sense of Smell as well as Taste and Still Make Ice Cream Heaven, Anyways?

Unknown to many, Ben Cohen suffers from anosmia, a condition that prevents him from smelling or tasting food. However, he would turn out to be a tremendous asset to the team for the way he compensates for the curious disability by often looking for texture in everything he eats. So, in case you’re wondering where all those swirls and chunks were coming from all along—now you know. Like Chubby Hubby, for instance, an authentic Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that consists of cascading fudge on vanilla malt and pretzel nuggets filled with peanut butter. Or the famed Vermonster sundae which comes with a simultaneous cerebral and gustatory overload of banana, cookie, brownie, and walnut chunks surrounded by fudge and whipped cream. The classical composer Ludwig Van Beethoven suffered from deafness, which would account for his compositions often having sharp, strong and at times violent melodies and tempo. In the same vein, Ben’s stamp on the now classic Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors is obvious. Apparently, his overcompensation is his own stroke of genius.

3. Naming Ice Cream Flavors After Rock Bands: How Rock-Band-Friendly Is That on a Scale of One to 10?

Phish Food and Gerry Garcia are just a few of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors that try to hitch the Cowmobile to the rock star phenom. In fairness, however, rock legends need all the ice cream they can get. And comedians, too, for that matter. Liz Lemon, for instance, has become a proud and enduring member of the Ben & Jerry Greek frozen yogurt offering, Tina Fey be proud. You got to give it to these guys. I mean, they work long hours making people sing and laugh. So definitely, they of all people, deserve all the ice cream credit they can get. Want to sing at the top of your voice? Queen Elsa of Frozen has the same idea.

Ben & Jerry’s caught on early to the environmental consciousness bandwagon and in so doing, blazed their own frozen trail for it. Their products are free from GMO (short for Genetically Modified Organism) which can give you the creeps just by finishing this sentence. And as early as 1989, Ben & Jerry’s has steered clear of cows getting injected with artificial hormones in order to produce more milk. What they lacked in artificiality, however, they made up for by advertently or inadvertently generating harmless and then not so harmless controversies like selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the West Banks. They even made a special ice cream in support of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign; Bernie’s Yearning was what it was called.

You can literally imagine Ben & Jerry at work in their ice cream making machine, looking like two mad scientists with their lab suits and oversize goggles on. For the Democratic cause, the pair decided that green mint covered by a thick slab of chocolate is the one true epitome of the fact that the poor in America are getting poorer and the rich are getting way more richer. And fatter, too for that matter. After all, there’s a simple formula for making Ben Jerry’s ice cream and here, ladies and gentlemen is the inside scoop: Add milk, cream, sugar, and eggs; and then all the show stoppers, please.

2. The Ben & Jerry’s Public Appearances that You and the Kids Have Managed to Miss

Probably because you’re not a night owl like myself, you’ve managed to miss out if not tune out Ben & Jerry’s appearances in the late night talk shows. Oh boy, that’s aplenty. You did miss much. I mean, these guys are the Energizer bunny of the late night talk tradition. And why not? Unilever is paying them for it. An ice cream flavor named Late Night Snack? It’s not a prank, It’s for real. And the same goes for The Tonight Dough. At the rate that these two are going, Ben & Jerry’s should have its own talk show. With plentiful good graces from Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, ice cream sandwich could soon have a new name. Why hasn’t anyone thought of it yet?

Bad publicity is still publicity and the wacky duo knows this only too well to the tune of exploiting people suffering from insomnia or sleepwalking to the fridge or freezer. When will the wacky duo strike again? Only Unilever knows. The company seems to have Ben & Jerry on a not so tight leash, these days. The last time we checked, Jostein Solheim is still pretty much Ben & Jerry’s CEO, although he seems to piggyback to everything the partners in crime are saying like an Alexa robot. He sure knows how to tow the line. Everything may look spontaneous and gone to the wacky races; but then again, it could all be scripted. After all, from the Unilever takeover all the way to the present times, it seems that Ben & Jerry haven’t changed a bit; still at the top of their game. I mean, Jerry is still hairier than ever. And that’s all so suspect.

1. The Out of this World Ben & Jerry’s Employee Perks You Never Heard of or Have You?

If the rumors are true, Ben & Jerry’s employees get three free pints of ice cream each per shift. They also get to wear Waffle Cone cologne all day, and that’s if they have a certified Ben & Jerry’s scooper status. To prove their loyalty and expertise, scoopers jeepers must show without reasonable doubt that they know the difference between a waffle, sugar and a cake cone. They should also know what they’re doing at all times especially trying their best not to sneeze despite the natural cologne. The scooper position at Ben & Jerry’s is certainly a great starting point and definitely one excellent way to siphon off all the recent gossip about the company and the latest who’s who roundup.

Scoopers know best, and they are trained to stump their foot when somebody says that the customer is always right. Although now world famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream names like Half Baked or Cookie Dough came from customer suggestion, there are times when management believes that a customer has gone too far. Like, suggesting that bacon or chicken wings be added into the flavor mix. And the biggest no-no of all: a mint and mango combo. While employees get to travel every year to try all sorts of foods for new flavor inspiration, they know when to draw the line. Do you have a suggestion for a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream name? Be careful. The walls have ears and the handwriting is on the wall.

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