With such unique flavors such as “The Tonight Dough”, “Midnight Snack”, and “Chocolate Therapy”, it is no wonder Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is considered a superior brand. The use of crunchy and chewy toppings in each of these flavors has people craving for further helpings. According to an interview with Ben and Jerry creator Ben Cohen, the reason behind the heavy use of flavor is that Cohen was diagnosed with a sinus condition called anosmia from birth, meaning he could not smell or taste too well. As a result, Cohen desires food with a more powerful texture and meaning. Here is the interview, abridged for your convenience:
“What sparked your love of and your obsession with ice cream?”: “Ice cream, to me, is about texture. It’s the sensation of it melting in your mouth, the smooth creaminess. With regular ice cream, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference in ice cream. When Jerry and I first started creating the flavors, he’d give me something to taste. He’d say, ‘Well, how do you like it?’ I said, ‘It’s good, but I can’t guess which flavor it is’. So he would just keep adding on flavoring until I could guess.”
“Was it always your intent to incorporate the big textures that are now so associative with your ice cream?”: “I mean, I was trying to make ice cream that I personally liked. I can remember being elementary school age-my family would be sitting around the dinner table and my mom would serve ice cream for dessert. I’d go get some cookies and candies and put them in the dish and bust them up with my spoon and mix them around. It just seemed like second nature to me to do that when we started the business”.
“Did you and Jerry develop any texture rules or guidelines for new flavors?”: “The only argument Jerry and I really got into was the size of the chocolate chunks. It’s a lot easier to run ice cream in an ice cream production facility if the chunks are small. I think that’s one reason why he liked the chunks to be smaller. We finally compromised on reducing our profit and making a whole lot of really big chunks. In fact, we ended up making our own: we came out with a special, low melting point compound chocolate for our chunks because, at the time, all you could get for ice cream were these little chips. We added cocoa butter so that it would soften in the ice cream”.
“Do you have a favorite Ben and Jerry’s texture/flavor?”: “There are two that come to mind. One is Health Bars and the other is Rainforest Crunch; they’re both kind of similar because they’re both in a butter crunch base. The thing about putting chunks in ice cream is that there’s this phenomenon known as ‘moisture migration’. Even though the product is frozen, there’s always some amount of water in it that’s not. When that moisture migrates and the butter crunch starts to melt, it creates a caramel-y, liquid-y, buttery, and crunchy part of the ice cream. I wouldn’t go so far as to say its a swirl, but it’s similar to that. A lot of it stays crunchy, though, especially with Health Bars. The chocolate coating acts as a moisture barrier”.
“You and Jerry have also been pioneers in corporate consciousness. How have you continued that in 2021?”: “Jerry and I got involved in the campaign to end qualified immunity after the protests this summer and after the murder of George Floyd. We really felt like we wanted to do something after the root causes of the problem and we saw an open letter that was written by the NFL Player’s Coalition calling on Congress to pass a law to overturn qualified immunity. And, y’know, whenever you find out about the police brutalizing someone or killing an unarmed black person, it was an outrage. Then it would turn out that they didn’t charge the policeman who did it, and if they did charge him, maybe a couple years later, you’d find out they got off with a slap on the wrist. So I was very motivated to understand what was going on”.
“How do you think other businesses can strive to make activism part of their mission the way Ben and Jerry ‘s has?”: “I think there’s an increasing recognition that business is the most powerful force in the country, and that, currently, business has been using that power covertly in its own self interest, essentially controlling our entire government through campaign contributions and lobbying. Consumers are waking up to this fact and they’re starting to say ‘Businesses have a responsibility to work for justice’. My suggestion is, instead of spending a lot of money trying to make ourselves look good, let’s just…be good. We’ve got it so that people are buying our ice cream and enjoying it more because they agree with the values of the people who make it. There’s really no stronger relationship”.
Ben and Jerry’s may not be known as a social justice company but their beliefs and donations are quite close to it. While not everybody can be successful at achieving equality, Ben Cohen’s interview is helpful at providing tips for achieving it as well as running a successful business. It also gave listeners a nice backstory about Cohen himself just for more inspiration for ourselves to follow our dreams and never give up.