Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NEWS: Trip to the Ben & Jerry's Factory: Day 3

The Ben & Jerry's Cowmobile

After a long day of adventures around the Ben & Jerry's headquarters yesterday, we were right back at it again on this blustery, 29 degree morning. We made the trek from our hotel to the main Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, Vermont (the other is located in St. Albans, VT) to tour the facility where most of their flavors come to fruition. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but the team leaders had some interesting demonstrations set up for the group to see.

The main entrance of the facility.
Although I've seen pictures of the factory from others, it was refreshing to finally view the entrance for myself. After entering the main building, I was taken back by the amount of Ben & Jerry's memorabilia lining the walls and immediately made my way to the gift shop that was sprawled out along the right side of the room.

The oversized gift-shop with anything you could possibly want from Ben & Jerry's.
I settled on the classic tie-dye shirt with Ben & Jerry's printed across the chest, but wanted far more. We then moved down the hallway where we walked past the top 10 best selling flavors, which had recently updated to include some new additions. In descending order, these were Red Velvet Cake, Peanut Butter Cup, Phish Food, Strawberry Cheesecake, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Half Baked, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cherry Garcia.

The top 10 best selling Ben & Jerry's flavors.
The next portion of the tour took us behind the scenes for a little head to head comparison of Ben & Jerry's versus some other super-premium ice creams. After we were escorted to a conference room in the back of the building, one of the team members rolled in this strange looking machine. This specially designed contraption takes a pint of ice cream and divides it up into four separate quadrants; something they practice daily to ensure the quality of their ice cream.

The specially designed, quadrant-cutting machine Ben & Jerry's uses for quality control. Here's a video of the machine in action:


We then analyzed a few different flavor against some of the competition (and of course, had plenty of samples). Most of the tests consisted of a head to head matchup between Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs. As expected, the concentration of swirls and mix-ins were larger and more consistent in the hometown-cartons. Plus, the pints from Ben & Jerry's contain 16 ounces, whereas the ones from Haagen Dazs only manage 14 ounces.

Ben & Jerry's Banana Split (on the left) versus Haagen Dazs Banana Split (on the right).
Ben & Jerry's Pistachio Pistachio (on the left) versus Haagen Dazs Pistachio (on the right).
The aftermath of all the deconstructed pints of ice cream.
Next up was perhaps my favorite part of the tour experience. The factory just so happened to be making Mint Chocolate Cookie on the particular day we were coming through so we were all given our own personal pint right off the assembly line. The peppermint ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies hadn't even been able to harden since it had skipped the deep freezer portion of the production process. The result was a soft-serve consistency with all the flavor found in a store-bought pint. The huge chunks of cookies were easily scooped to the top, providing an ice cream experience unlike any other.

The freshest batch of Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie available anywhere.
Just look at that consistency and huge chunk of chocolate sandwich cookie!
We were then taken on the standard tour that everyone can partake in when visiting the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont. This began with a short video of some history of the company and was followed by a peek at the actual manufacturing process from our elevated vantage point in the mezzanine. Unfortunately we weren't able to take pictures from this portion due to some of the machinery and processes being proprietary  After learning all about how the ice cream is made into the pints we purchase from stores, we made our way downstairs to sample a factory-only exclusive flavor. The small cups of white and pink ice cream were referred to as Razzleberry: vanilla ice cream with razzleberry swirls.

The factory-exclusive flavor known as Razzleberry.
This is what the Target exclusive, Berry Voluntary, wishes it could be. Ben & Jerry's vanilla far outperforms their Raspberry Cheesecake ice cream, and the swirls of raspberry and blackberries contrasted nicely with the sweet base. With the addition of some white chocolate chunks, this could have been a flavor worthy of freezers everywhere.

A close-up view of Razzleberry.
After the conclusion of the tour we were able to check out the famous Flavor Graveyard so we could take a look at some flops from the past. Here are some of the highlights:

The Entrance to the Flavor Graveyard

Wild Maine Blueberry and Peanut Butter & Jelly

Tennessee Mud, Peanuts! Popcorn!, Rainforest Crunch and Dastardly Mash

Making' Whoopie Pie, Oh Pear and White Russian

Miz Jelena's Sweet Potato Pie

Devil's Food Chocolate and Economic Crunch

All in all, the experience was one of a kind. Receiving a behind the scenes glance at one of the most magical places on Earth had been on my bucket list for sometime and I'm glad to finally check that off. I'd like to give a big thanks to all the fellow bloggers and great people at Ben & Jerry's for the incredible hospitality and providing such a unique insight into their company. No wonder this is such a successful operation. Every person seemed very passionate about what they do and it shows in their products. Until next time!

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