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Ben & Jerry's

A company that manufactures ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and ice cream novelty products.

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From the humblest of beginnings Ben & Jerry's would become a nationwide sensation.

  • Nov 24, 2009
  • by

Back around 1980 a friend and I were enroute to Montreal and we decided to spend the night in Burlington, VT.  Just in case you have never been there Burlington is a great college town and the home of the University of Vermont.  The city would remind you a lot of Madison, WI.  In any event, my buddy and I stepped out for some chow and after dinner we took a stroll around the city.  It was a fairly warm evening and soon we happened upon a tiny ice cream shop with a long line of people waiting to be served.  We wondered what all the fuss was about and so we joined the line.  What we had stumbled upon was the original Ben & Jerry's store

Lots of magazine articles and a number of books have been written that tell the story about a how a  pair of young entrepreneuers named Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started an ice cream company that within just a few short years would become a nationwide sensation.  And what's more, Ben and Jerry did it all their way. They revolutionized the ice cream business by creating bizarre new flavors with far-out names.  When they began Ben & Jerry's offered about a dozen flavors lovingly made with an old fashioned rock salt ice cream maker and locally produced milk and cream. Dastardly Mash, Heath Bar Crunch and Chunky Monkey were among the very first flavors offered at Ben & Jerry's.  Word spread like wildfire about this fabulous ice cream and before long Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were selling their product to restaurants all over Northern Vermont.
Then in 1981 an article in Time magazine proclaimed Ben & Jerry's to be "the best ice cream in the world."   Shortly thereafter Cohen and Greenfield built a state of the art ice cream plant in Waterbury, VT. and signed a national distribution deal.  Before long Ben & Jerry's would become one of the most recognized brand names in the country.   

As the company took off and the profits rolled in Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided that they were going to run their company a whole lot differently than most.  They dubbed their approach "Caring Capitalism".   For one thing they created a company that was a lot of fun to work for and adopted environmentally friendly production policies.  Employees were well compensated and were the recipients of a generous benefit package that included profit-sharing programs, free health club memberships, day-care service and college tuition aid.  In addition, for many years Ben & Jerry's has donated 7.5% of its annual pre-tax profits to charitable causes--the highest percentage of any publicly held company.  In 1988 Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were recognized as the U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year and were presented an award by President Reagan.

Ben & Jerry's was acquired by Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch corporation, for $326 million in 2000. Under the terms of the agreement, the company continues to operate separately from Unilever's existing U.S. ice cream business, with an independent Board of Directors to provide leadership for its social mission and brand integrity.  The product remains of the highest quality and a trip to your local Ben & Jerry's remains a fun experience.  As always,  Ben & Jerry's  continues to add unique new flavors to its menu.  The latest is a concoction called  Hannah Teter's Maple Blondie (named after a champion snowboarder) that is described as "maple ice cream with blonde brownie pieces and a maple caramel swirl."   Being a born and bred New Englander who loves anything maple I will be all over that one.  All in all, Ben & Jerry's is a simply a great American success story.     Very highly recommended!

From the humblest of beginnings Ben & Jerry's would become a nationwide sensation. From the humblest of beginnings Ben & Jerry's would become a nationwide sensation. From the humblest of beginnings Ben & Jerry's would become a nationwide sensation. From the humblest of beginnings Ben & Jerry's would become a nationwide sensation.

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December 02, 2009
Oh, one other never-before-published piece of B&J trivia(!); we supplied them with wholesale organic cotton t-shirts in the early '90s and, surprise, surprise, it was the first time we had to make sizes XXL & XXXL. Why? Oh dear, I'm afraid it was because every B&J employee was entitled to a big tub of ice cream every day for personal consumption (can't remember if it was a pint or 2..) and I was just glad back then that our award-winning sales rep did suggest to them that it might not be quite correct to call that an employee 'benefit' health-wise!
December 02, 2009
Great stories! Thanks for these terrific contributions!
December 02, 2009
Thanks for reviewing Ben & Jerry's. It IS a great story. I have to add another cool episode in their saga, I heard at Bioneers conference one year: when Pillsbury corporation, new owners of Hagen Dazs ice cream brand, tried to shut Ben & Jerry's out of every outlet in Boston, Ben & Jerry's responded with t-shirts, banners, ads that said; "What's the doughboy afraid of?" and kept up the pressure till Pillsbury caved!: http://thinkofthat.net/blog/2009/10/20/whats-the-doughboy-afraid-of/
November 24, 2009
This review just reaffirmed my love of Ben & Jerry's.  Someday, I would love to venture out to Vermont and visit the very first B&J as I always love visiting the firsts of what starts awesome food chains!  Thanks for sharing, Paul :)
November 24, 2009
Vermont is a great place to visit. Very picturesque. If you ever get up there you have to visit the Ben & Jerry ice cream plant in Waterbury. What a fun tour it is!
November 24, 2009
Yes, Jim, you should make a list! I've been to those, plus a few other first, like Peets in Berkeley. And a B&J factory tour? Sign me up! :D
November 24, 2009
Maybe we can organize a Lunch nationwide tour to promote the site and visit all of these neat places. Sign me up as well!
November 24, 2009
YES! I am all for this :D
November 25, 2009
Also, I've heard, though cannot find online evidence, that in the stores in the region, you can get cheap pints of surprise flavors which are just the leftovers from in between the production of different flavors.
September 02, 2010
Even if Noah's Bagels are at least at their chains awful, just above supermarket ones, they do have their first store right near Black Oak Books in Berkeley. Or they did when I was last book browsing a decade ago.
September 02, 2010
I didn't realize that Noah's first store was in Berkeley. Will have to look that up. Sadly, Black Oak Books is no longer there :(
More Ben & Jerry's reviews
Quick Tip by . March 12, 2010
The cake batter flavor is to die for - and convenient :)
Quick Tip by . November 24, 2009
I somehow cannot seem to get enough of their Coconut Seven Layer flavor in their store. I wish I could buy it in pint sizes from Walmart.
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this corporation


Company History:

Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc. produces super premium ice cream, frozen yogurt, and ice cream novelties in rich and original flavors. The company sells its unique offerings in grocery stores, restaurants, and franchised ice cream shops, and it holds about one-third of the market for its products. Started by two friends who never intended to become big businessmen, Ben & Jerry's is distinguished by a corporate philosophy that stresses social action and liberal ideals in addition to profit making, and is known for innovative and creative marketing devices that express this unorthodox spirit.

Ben & Jerry's was founded in May 1978, when Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened an ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont. Cohen had been teaching crafts, and Greenfield had been working as a lab technician when the two decided that 'we wanted to do something that would be more fun,' as Greenfield later told People magazine. In addition, the two wanted to live in a small college town. In 1977, they moved to Burlington, Vermont, and completed a five dollar correspondence course in ice cream making from Pennsylvania State University. With $12,000 in start-up money, a third of which they borrowed, the two renovated an old gas station on a corner in downtown Burlington and opened Ben & Jerry's Homemade.

The first Ben & Jerry's store sold 12 flavors, made with an old fashioned rock salt ice cream maker and locally produced milk ...

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