Ben & Jerry's is an American division of the British-Dutch Unilever conglomerate that manufactures ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and ice cream novelty products, manufactured by Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings, Inc., headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont, United States, with the main factory in Waterbury.
In 1977 lifelong friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield completed a correspondence course on ice cream making from the Pennsylvania State University. On May 5, 1978, with a $12,000 investment the pair opened an ice cream parlor in a renovated gas station in downtown Burlinton, Vermont. In 1979, they marked their anniversary by holding the first-ever free cone day, now a nationwide annual celebration.
The founders were able to combine ice cream making with social activism by creating a three-part mission statement that considered profits as only one measure of success. Their mission statement has three parts: a Social Mission, a Product Mission, and an Economic Mission. Their Social Mission describes the company’s need to operate in a way that recognizes their influence on society, and the importance of improving the quality of life all over the world. Their Product Mission states that they will always strive to make the finest quality products, working to use natural, wholesome ingredients. It also states that they will advertise business mannerisms that respect the Earth. Their Economic mission describes their promise to operate their company on a “sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for [their] stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for [their] employees.” "Underlying the mission of Ben & Jerry’s is the determination to seek new and creative ways of addressing all three parts, while holding a deep respect for individuals inside and outside the company and for the communities of which they are a part."
In 1980, Ben and Jerry rented space in an old spool and bobbin mill on South Champlain Street in Burlington and began packing their ice cream in pints. In 1981, the first Ben & Jerry’s franchise opened on Route 7 in Shelburne, Vermont. In 1983, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was used to build “the world’s largest ice cream sundae” in St, Albans, Vermont; the sundae weighed 27,102 pounds. In 1984, Haagen-Dazs tried to limit distribution of Ben & Jerry’s in Boston, prompting Ben & Jerry’s to file suit against the parent company, Pillsbury, in its now famous “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?” campaign. In 1987, Häagen-Dazs again tried to enforce exclusive distribution, and Ben & Jerry’s filed its second lawsuit against the Pillsbury Company. In 1985, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was established at the end of the year with a gift from Ben & Jerry's to fund community-oriented projects; it was then provided with 7.5% of the company’s annual pre-tax profits. In 1986, Ben & Jerry’s launched its “Cowmobile”, a modified mobile home used to distribute free scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a unique, cross-country “marketing drive”—driven and served by Ben and Jerry themselves. The “Cowmobile” burned to the ground outside of Cleveland four months later, but there were no injuries. Ben said it looked like “the world’s largest baked Alaska.”
In 1988, the pair won the title of U.S Small Business Persons Of The Year, awarded by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Also this year, the first brownies were ordered from Greyston Bakery, which led to the development of the popular Chocolate Fudge Brownie flavor. In 1992, Ben & Jerry’s joined in a co-operative campaign with the national non-profit Children's Defense Fund; the campaign goal was to bring children’s basic needs to the top of the national agenda. Over 70,000 postcards were sent to Congress concerning kids and other national issues.
In April 2000, Ben & Jerry's announced its acquisition by multinational food giant Unilever. Unilever said it hopes to carry on the tradition of engaging "in these critical, global economic and social missions." Although the founders are still engaged with the company, they do not hold any board or management position and are not involved in day-to-day management of the company
In 2001, Ben & Jerry's U.S. completed transition to "Eco-Pint" packaging, which packaged all pint flavors in unbleached paperboard Eco-Pint containers. The use of brown-kraft unbleached paperboard was a critical first step toward a totally biodegradable pint made without added chlorine. However, due to what they described as increasing supply, quality, and cost challenges, Ben & Jerry's discontinued their use of the Eco-Pint in 2006, transitioning to a pint container made out of a bleached paperboard that they said was more readily available with superior forming characteristics."Ben & Jerry's Social and Environmental Assessment 2006".
On Earth Day in 2005, when a vote in the U.S. Senate proposed the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, Ben & Jerry's launched a protest by creating the largest ever Baked Alaska, which weighed 1,140 pounds, and placed it in front of the US Capitol Building. In March 2009, "CyClone Dairy" launched an advertising campaign and a website to promote its milk products, which purportedly came exclusively from cloned cows. On April 1, 2009 (April Fool's Day), Ben & Jerry's announced that it was behind this fake company. Ben & Jerry's had created the tongue-in-cheek hoax to raise awareness of the increasing presence of products from cloned animals within American food, and to campaign for a tracking system of cloned-animal products. The hoax was revealed on April Fool's Day with the message: "We believe you should have the right to choose which foods you eat – and not to eat cloned foods if you don’t want to. And that's why Ben & Jerry’s believes we need a national clone tracking system, so people and companies can know where their food is coming from." For the month of September in 2009, Ben & Jerry's temporarily changed the name of one of its best-selling ice creams, "Chubby Hubby", to "Hubby Hubby", in celebration of the legalization of gay marriage in its home state of Vermont. The new "Hubby Hubby" tub features a picture of two men getting married as well as a picture of a rainbow.
Ben & Jerry's has collaborated with a large number of organizations, including many NGOs. The company has worked with the World Wildlife Fund and explorer Marc Cornelissen to open the Climate Change College. Its aims are to educate normal young people on what they believe are the science, the politics and the campaign strategies behind climate change so that they can then produce a successful campaign of their own. Students become ambassadors for preventing global warming and do their own research in the Arctic.
Free Cone Day
Free Cone Day is an annual event held in late April or early May, in which Ben & Jerry's scoop shops give out free ice cream cones. The 30th annual Free Cone Day took place on Tuesday, April 29, 2008, and the most recent event took place on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 which celebrated the company's 31st anniversary.
Over one million free cones are given away each year, prompting the company's ad slogan "Be One In A Million." Charitable organizations are often present at the stores each year and enjoy a significant amount of fundraising success. Oftentimes, local celebrities show up at various stores, promoting the day and the charities there. Sometimes the event is scheduled to coincide with Earth Day and sometimes volunteers are on hand with clipboards and voter registration forms to help those who would like to register to vote. (Pictured left: Girl in cow costume promoting Free Cone Day outside a Ben & Jerry's shop in Stockholm, Sweden).
The first Free Cone Day was held on May 5, 1979 by Ben and Jerry as a customer and staff appreciation event for the one year anniversary of their store's opening.
Cultural significance and reach
Ben & Jerry's was the first brand-name ice cream to be taken into space aboard the Space Shuttle. Most of the cruise ships of the Royal Caribbean International have a Ben & Jerry's scoop shop on board.
Ben and Jerry appeared on the Colbert Report on March 5, 2007 to plug their new ice cream flavor "Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream" and their "grassroots education and advocacy project" TrueMajority.
The pictures of the cows on Ben & Jerry's ice cream cartons were painted by Woody Jackson.
They renamed a flavor, Yes Pecan, in reference to Barack Obama's winning the presidency. They also decided in January 2009 to donate all proceeds made on the sale of that flavor to the Common Cause Education Fund.
In 2009, in partnership with Freedom to Marry, the company renamed the flavor "Chubby Hubby" to "Hubby Hubby" in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Rumors have suggested that Ben & Jerry's supported the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 of killing Philadelphia Police officer Daniel Faulkner. Despite several appeals, Abu-Jamal's conviction has been upheld. As a result of this alleged support, the National Fraternal Order of Police has publicly called for a boycott of all Ben & Jerry's products. The Ben & Jerry's website denies that the company has had any connection with the case; however, it adds that Cohen did sign a petition as a private citizen to have "the system of American justice be followed fully in the case."
(Pictured right: Ford Kuga advertising Ben & Jerry's ice cream).
The company raised controversy in 2006 after releasing a flavor of ice cream called "Black and Tan." It had named the flavor after the alcoholic drink made by mixing stout with pale ale. However, outrage stemmed from the fact that Black and Tans was also a name given to the irregular force of British ex-servicemen recruited during the Irish war of independence and renowned for their brutality. On September 25, 2008, Tracy Reiman from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield suggesting that to prevent cruelty to dairy cows that Ben & Jerry's should use human breast milk in their ice cream products. Ben & Jerry's spokeswoman Liz Brenna replied that while the company applauds PETA's novel approach to bring attention to this issue, the company believes a human mother's milk is best used for her child. Ben & Jerry's has been heavily criticized by the photography community for their policy that no one is allow to take pictures of the restaurant while they are inside, except for the walls. The management claims this is because of problems with corporate espionage, but are unable to answer how preventing photography in the store prevents anyone from just buying a product, walking outside, and taking pictures anyway. Photographers caught taking pictures within the store are set on by the management, and ordered to cease or leave. They also do not allow any photography of their production floor during factory tours.