In the late 1970s, two school friends from New York opened up their own “scoop shop” in a renovated gas station in downtown Vermont. All they had at the time was a $5 qualification in ice-cream making and $12,000 in capital.
Fast-forward a few decades, and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have turned it into an ice-cream empire. Now, with over 600 parlors worldwide, just under 100 different flavors and a coveted acquisition from Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s is one of the biggest names in the food industry.
After over 40 years selling ice cream the duo are still scooping today with the same mission objective that pushed them to open their first shop in 1978 – “peace, love and ice-cream” – a manifesto that’s about more than just swirls, chocolate chips and fudge pieces.
Rather than just a frozen delight, ice-cream is in fact the pair’s medium of choice to influence social, political and economic change. Over the years they’ve curated an eclectic library of flavors – each one delicious and creamy in its own right – but also many editions that are socially conscious.
From human rights, politics and fair trade, all the way to the economy and environment – since the seventies their flavours have been bringing awareness to global issues through ice-cream, donating scores of their profits to philanthropy.
They have even written a book about their “double-dip” business culture that prioritizes people as much as profit, explaining how to “lead with your values and make money too.”
As a B-Corporation that places social responsibility, activism and the climate equal-to or above economic status, it seems that for Ben & Jerry, peace and love might actually come before ice-cream.
“We use ice cream to change the world”
Activism is at the forefront of every level of Ben & Jerry’s business. The product, economic and social priorities of their company are all nurtured equally, and the brand strives to use their position in society to advance human rights, giving a voice to political, social and economic issues, supporting marginalized and minority communities, and protecting the environment and planet.
“We love making ice cream — but using our business to make the world a better place gives our work its meaning,” say Ben and Jerry.
Ben & Jerry’s down-to-earth yet conscious approach has kept its voice heard and its brand relevant from its “humble beginnings” to now (they were topping ice cream with sprinkles and social justice before the world was even awake to the issues of our modern-day world).
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After its $326mn acquisition by the multinational company, Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s’ ethical voice remains loud, as together the pair are working to pursue and expand Ben & Jerry’s social mission.
Furthermore, Ben & Jerry’s account for 2.6% of the entire ice-cream market and are predicted to bring in $2.2bn this year alone.
Ben & Jerry’s have used their brand voice as a flagship for change. As they say, they believe that ice cream can change the world, and from the impact of their ingredient-choice to their eco-friendly freezers – as well as everything else in between – all that they do is consciously considered.
How do you like your euphoria?
With this question, Ben and Jerry’s has attempted to satisfy every food mood with its catalog of almost 100 flavours.
But more than this, they wanted to bring attention to contemporary issues, driving “systemic progressive social change” with their flavours’ titles and profits.
Some iconically conscious flavours from the brand have included…
For the planet
Save Our Swirled
A “swirled-class” flavour and “SOS” for the planet, “Save Our Swirled” – a raspberry, marshmallow, dark and white chocolate ice-cream – launched in 2015 and was designed to raise awareness for climate change, encouraging action ahead of the Paris Climate Summit held in December of 2015.
“Our stance on climate change and our ice cream is one in the same: if it’s melted, it’s ruined,” says Ben & Jerry’s.
A year later, in 2016, Ben & Jerry’s announced they would stop making one of their very popular flavours; “Fossil Fuel,” and buried it in their “Flavour Graveyard.” They explained the rationale behind ditching the chocolatey fudge dinosaurs and swirls by saying “we believe that fossil fuels, whether ice cream or the real thing, belong in the ground.”
The flavour burial was accompanied by a call for Europe to also put an end to investing in fossil fuels.
Unfudge our future
Their mission to combat fossil fuels didn’t end there however, as in 2020 they launched a limited edition flavour called “Unfudge our future,” using fudge brownies and peanut butter cookie dough to call on Australia’s leaders to ban the use of fossil fuels and “rebuild a clean, resilient and fair future.”
Change the Whirled
Last year Ben and Jerry’s launched a new flavour that is not only supportive of the planet, but also the people. “Change the Whirled” – designed in collaboration with racial equality activist and American football quarterback, Colin Kaepernick – is a non-dairy caramel, fudge, chocolate and Graham Cracker swirls flavour that is vegan and environmentally friendly. A portion of the proceeds from this flavour go to Kaepernick’s youth organization, “Know Your Rights Camp.”
For the people
As the stock market crashed in 1987, bankers on Wall Street were understandably stressed. What better way to cheer them up than with vanilla chocolate covered almonds, pecans and walnuts? This was exactly what Ben & Jerry did the very next day, as they headed down to Wall Street with their ice-cream truck to hand out free scoops of their aptly named new flavour – “Economic Crunch.”
Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!
Since 1996, one of Ben & Jerry’s longest running flavours, “Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!,” has been using fair trade organic coffee beans from the B Corp specialty-coffee importer – Sustainable Harvest. This collaboration supports small-holder coffee farmers around the world.
Ben & Jerry’s commitment to Fairtrade has repeatedly been showcased through their flavour creations, with 2011’s “Coconutterly Fair” – using fair trade sugar, cocoa and coconuts – and the new “Chocolatey Love A-fair” set for launch in 2023, which in collaboration with Tony’s Chocolonely supports the “mission to end modern slavery in cocoa farming.”
Another of the ice-cream giant’s collaborations,in 2007, involved CBS’ “The Late Show” host, Stephen Colbert. “Americone Dream” – a vanilla, caramel, fudge-covered waffle non-dairy ice cream – dedicates a portion of its proceeds to “The Stephen Colbert Americone Dream Fund” in support of a spectrum of charities that help disadvantaged children, veterans, and environmental causes.
I Dough, I Dough
In celebration of the US Supreme Court ruling to recognise same-sex marriages under federal law, Ben & Jerry’s renamed their “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” flavour to “I Dough, I Dough” in the summer of 2015, broadcasting their support for the milestone in US marriage equality.
Home Sweet Honeycomb
Honey caramel swirls and milk chocolate covered honeycomb chunks are what makes up “Home Sweet Honeycomb,” a flavour that in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee, supports refugees and urges “European leaders to give vulnerable refugees a safe place to call home.”
What’s more, the recipe’s honey comes from the German cooperative – “nearBees” – that supports small-scale beekeepers as well as their thriving populations of bees!
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) July 13, 2022
Ben & Jerry’s have shown a long-term commitment to increasing public participation in politics. Most notably, in 2009 they launched their own witty take on Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can!” campaign tagline with “Yes Pecan!,” a “buttery ice cream with roasted non-partisan pecans.” The proceeds of this limited edition flavour went to the Common Cause Education Fund.
This specific politically-focused pecan campaign was revived nine years later in 2018 with “Pecan Resist,” this time its message was about “resisting the Trump administration’s regressive and discriminatory policies and building a future that values inclusivity, equality, and justice for people of colour, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and immigrants.”
In 2016 Ben & Jerry’s protested against voting laws in North Carolina with “Empower Mint” – a peppermint and fudgy brownie ice cream – from which a portion of the profits went to the state’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Change Is Brewing
The flavour features cold brew coffee, marshmallow swirls, fudge brownies and packaging featuring artwork by Black multidisciplinary artist, Lacki Jordan.
One month until election day! 🗓️ Join us in fighting for a democracy that works for everyone.
Learn more about Change is Brewing: https://t.co/rMc2qefzS6
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 8, 2022
Although Ben & Jerry’s are always looking for the next big idea, they do however also mourn the loss of dearly discontinued flavours with a commemorative ‘Flavour Graveyard,” chronicling every concoction created, enjoyed, and laid to rest to this date.
“Ice cream flavours, like everything else, have a beginning & an end,” says the message upon entering Ben & Jerry’s’ graveyard.
This memorial serves as a commemoration of some of their most iconic, weird and eccentric ideas, but also provides consumers with the opportunity to vote on which flavours they’d like to “resurrect” or “reinCONEate.”
Whether deliberate or not, their graveyard serves as a witty yet powerful tool to convert consumerist behavior into a unique record of support for specific charities and social issues, because if enough people vote for one flavour in particular, then Ben & Jerry’s may choose to bring it back and further support the flavour-associated charities.
Through the “sweeter side of activism” Ben & Jerry’s are trying to use their corporation to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Not only is this a noble mission worth supporting, but it also transforms ice-cream into a guilty pleasure without the guilt. Nice.
Like everything else in life, ice cream flavors have a beginning and an end. 🍦🪦🖤 Learn how we pay tribute to our dearly de-pinted in the Flavor Graveyard: https://t.co/Uk85VlSJ8s pic.twitter.com/8qztxSVn5p
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 23, 2022
Correction: This article has been updated since publication to clarify the timeline in the subtitle; remove details of Ben & Jerry’s history to avoid assumptions; reword and remove paragraphs relating to Unilever due to updated information to avoid misunderstanding or unfair assumption; remove details on the G20 in relation to fossil fuels due to irrelevant statistics; remove the aim of the “Change the Whirled” flavour due to it being wrongly placed; remove one tweet to avoid misunderstanding; and clarify and amend the message of the “Pecan Resist” flavour campaign.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Ben & Jerry’s “Imagine Whirled Peace” flavour ice cream. Featured Photo Credit: Max/Flickr