Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NEWS: Trip To Ben & Jerry's Headquarters: Day 2

After arriving in Vermont late Monday night, my Tuesday morning alarm went off earlier than I would have preferred; but the promise of a day filled with all things ice cream provided some much needed motivation. 15 other food bloggers, writers, entrepenuers and myself were shuttled over to headquarters just a few minutes away for a fun-filled day of Ben & Jerry's education. While the actual production facility is located about 20 minutes away in Waterbury, VT, their headquarters are located close to where the first Ben & Jerry's scoop shop was originally opened back in 1978.

The first few hours included an overview of exactly what the Ben & Jerry's brand is based on, what the company believes in, how they stay connected with their consumers, how they give back to their supporters and how they're trying to use their brand recognition to make a real difference across the globe. We covered topics such as their upcoming 2013 truck tour (which will be traveling up and down the East and West Coasts), how they use social media to help connect consumers to limited-edition flavors, their Get The Dough Out campaign and their latest Capture Euphoria Instagram initiative.

In the middle of all this, the rear door suddenly swung open and Jerry Greenfield came walking through. He then proceeded to take a seat in the middle of the room and chat with us for about a half hour while he shared how the company was founded and exactly what his role is within Ben & Jerry's today. Starting way back in 1978 in an old gas station (and only $12,000), this famous duo was able to build a company that has since captured the hearts of people all over the world.

Jerry Greenfield, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry's
Their operation has blossomed from a small-time business into one that has the power and leverage to make an impact on real global issues; something that everyone we spoke with seemed very passionate about. Not only do the focus on using Fair Trade ingredients in all their ice cream, they also make an impact by partnering with organizations like Greyston Bakery and others. So what is Jerry's all-time favorite flavors?

We then chatted with some other members of the Ben & Jerry's team who explained their relationship with Unilever and their Statement of Mission; a point that was reiterated throughout the day. The idea of being able to produce top-notch ice cream, generate a substantial profit and do both in a socially responsible way is something that other companies should strive to replicate.

Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben & Jerry's

Chris Miller, Social Activism Manager
We also received a sneak peek of some upcoming Limited Batch Pints: Cannoli (already released), Pina Colada (to be released in May through August 2013) and Candy Bar Pie (to be released from September to December 2013).
After brushing up on the basics of Ben & Jerry's we made our way to Scoop University, their own in-house scoop shop located inside the headquarters. Here we learned exactly how to scoop ice cream from behind the counter, cook up waffle cones and even served some of the employees.

The menu at the scoop shop included a handful of specialty items; all available for just $1.00.
We cooked up some waffle cones on the hot waffle irons.
We then grabbed some sticks and prepared to sample some of the flavors they had on hand.
We sampled Liz Lemon, Raspberry Fudge Chunk, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Cherry Garcia (from left to right).
The festivities ended with something I had been looking forward to all day; a trip to the R&D department. Flavor gurus taught us exactly how they determine which flavors make the cut and what's involved in their day to day operations. They informed us that they receive 10,000-15,000 flavor suggestions every single year and only 3-5 actually make their way into production. We were also told to expect White Russian to make a reappearance sometime this Summer; a flavor I'm really looking forward to trying out. We then saw exactly how they produce a test batch by churning one up for ourselves.

The test kitchen where all the magic happens.
The low-scale ice cream maker that churns out 6 pints of each test batch.
A flavor guru adding some Fair Trade vanilla to Ben & Jerry's famous ice cream mix that would act as our base.
The finished vanilla ice cream that we then combined with bits of blondie brownies and fudge chunks.
The finished product, which had the consistency of soft serve and tasted delicious.
Everyone was intrigued by the shelf full of empty pints that were stacked up against the back wall; some of which I wish were still around. Some of the most interesting were: Uncanny Cashew, Festivus, Peanuts! Popcorn!, Wavy Gravy, Ooey Gooey Cake, Makin' Whoopie Pie and American Pie.





Tomorrow we'll be heading to the factory in Waterbury, Vermont to take a peek at exactly how each pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream is manufactured and distributed. Until then!

11 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! It was amazing to experience and relive while I was writing the article as well.

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    2. Any info/update on OCC?

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    3. OCC and Dublin Mudslide are currently bring phased out unfortunately.

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    4. We used to have Dublin Mudslide in the UK, that is my all time favourite Ben and Jerrys, sounds like there isn't much chance of it returning then.
      Great post, I have loved reading about your trip!

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  2. Living the dream, man. On spread with you (bb.com).

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    Replies
    1. Definitely living the dream. I appreciate the comment!

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  3. Very cool. I wonder, did anyone ask them why they choose to use so many "fudge" pieces rather than real chocolate. I think that is one thing that often demotes B&J's flavors for me.

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    Replies
    1. All of the fudge pieces used in their flavors are Fair Trade chocolate, so they're about as real as it gets.

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    2. Hmm, well maybe I'm mistaken. But, for instance, in Cherry Garcia, which B&J's describe as having "fudge flakes," which in reality are thin bars of "chocolate" (enough to really taste the chocolate flavor rather than just adding a slight chocolate flavor and texture), the ingredients list: Cream, Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Water, Cherries, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Coconut Oil, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Cocoa, Fruit And Vegetable Concentrates (Color), Guar Gum, Natural Flavor, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Butteroil, Carrageenan, Soy Lecithin. It's my understanding that when you are using an actual chocolate product you label it in the ingredients "chocolate chips" or "milk chocolate" followed by the ingredients in parentheses. This is how Häagen-Dazs does it, for instance the ingredients for their Vanilla Chocolate Chip are cream, skim milk, sugar, skim milk (lactose reduced), corn syrup, egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, vanilla extract). It was always my understanding that B&J's had to say "fudge" just like Hershey's brands such as 5th Avenue say "a rich chocolatey coating," because the ingredients weren't actually chocolate.

      Perhaps I'm being pedantic; I don't mean to be obnoxious! But the fudge flakes in B&J's ice cream do taste watered down without that milkfat mouthfeel that real chocolate has as it melts on your tongue.

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    3. I agree somewhat. I'm not exactly sure what makes up their fudge flakes, but it does seem a bit watered down unless you really let them slowly melt all the way down. Unfortunately, I usually give in to the urge to chew them up far before they get to this point.

      If you look back over some of other reviews covering flavors that include their fudge flakes, I usually have negative things to say about them.

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