Last month, I went on a press trip to Ben & Jerry's in Vermont for two days of activities like hanging out with the staff at the company headquarters in South Burlington, creating a new flavor with the flavor gurus, visiting the St Albans dairy co-op, touring the factory in Waterbury, sampling the new Cores, and snowshoeing. Then, a storm hit, and I was stuck in a magical winter wonderland for two extra days with nothing to do but tromp around in snowshoes, look out at snow blanketed mountains, and eat apple cider doughnuts from MLC Bakeshop. It was glorious.
Between ice cream feedings, I learned a lot about Ben & Jerry's, from fun facts (there's a slide in the office!) to how seriously the company is committed to their social mission. Scroll down to read them all.
1: At the company HQ in South Burlington, Vermont, all of the interior walls are curvy (because right angles are too square, man). There's also a mock scoop shop called Scoop U that's used for franchisee training, and everything from shakes to sundaes is only $1. Near the front entrance, you can get from the upper to lower levels on a slide. The office is also dog friendly, meaning there's a cute pup every 50 feet or so (Hi, Quimby!).
2: Ben & Jerry's employees get three free pints per day, every day. On a related note, they also get a free gym membership (and there is a work-out area at the office).
3: The flavor graveyard at the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury only has a fraction of the hundreds of flavors that have been retired in the company's history. Many others aren't officially declared "dead" because they may be reformulated and reintroduced. Others, like White Russian, have been resurrected (it's currently available in scoop shops). The "deceased" pints aren't actually buried in the graveyard, it's just headstones.
4: The factory in Waterbury produces 120,000 pints a day, one flavor at a time.
5: If you take a tour of the factory, you'll get to try a flavor that's currently in the testing/development stage. For me, it was At the ChocoBanana, banana-cinnamon ice cream with brown sugar caramel swirls and milk chocolate chunks. It tasted like banana bread batter (and it was delicious).
6: The cow seen on Ben & Jerry's packages (and this van) is named Woody, after Woody Jackson, the artist who designed him in 1983.
7: Ben & Jerry's has a team of "flavor gurus" who create all of their flavors. Gurus go on "trend trek" trips every year, where they eat their way through cities by ordering EVERY dessert at local restaurants to uncover new food trends and flavors. Yeah, that's what you'd call a dream job.
8: Unilever became the majority share-holder in 2000, but Ben & Jerry's maintains their own board of directors who are responsible for ensuring that the company sticks to its core values and three-part mission. The company also employs a full-time Activist Manager, Chris Miller, whose background includes five years directing Greenpeace's climate change campaign (he's a badass, in the best possible definition of the word).
9: The new Cores (see our review here) are the first line-up of Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be both fair trade and non-GMO. The company is committed to transitioning all of its products to non-GMO and fair trade by the end of the year.
10: Last December, Half Baked became the top selling flavor, knocking Cherry Garcia from the throne for the first time in its history.
11: Based on customer feedback, a new formulation of Cherry Garcia (with more cherries) will be headed to grocery store shelves soon.
12: Certain retailers carry exclusive flavors, including Target (Peanut Butter World, Peanut Butter Jam Session, Rockin' Blondies, and Volun-Tiramisu), Walgreens (Truffle Trifecta), 7-Eleven (Nutty Caramel Swirl), and Walmart (Mississippi Mud Pie: January-April, Cotton Candy: May-September).
13: These days, Ben and Jerry say they have no authority or official responsibilities at the company. They are focusing their efforts on Stamp Stampede, an initiative that raises awareness of money's influence on the electoral process. The ultimate goal is to overturn Citizen's United.
14: Ben says he typically stands at Jerry's right side when they get photographed so that if you're looking at the photo from left to right, you see them in the right order. If you're ever unsure which one is which, I like Stephen Colbert's memory trick: "Jerry is hairy" (skip to 2:28 in the video).
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