Runaway Dinosaur

For the love of the music…..

Friday Food-Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s: A traitor speaks out

Posted by jhochstat on August 8, 2008

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry Greenfield

Via Slashfood Thursday 8.7.08:

Posted Aug 7th 2008 1:00PM by Bruce Watson

Okay, I’m going to get something out in the open here: I am somewhat biased when it comes to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Just in case the title of this post wasn’t enough to make my feelings clear, I want you to know that, from where I stand, the famed ice cream makers share moral ground with Kim Philby, John Walker, and Robert Hanssen. In my house, we don’t use the term “Benedict Arnold.” For us, the gold standard of betrayal takes the form of two Vermont pseudo-hippies, and the phrase “You’re a total…Ben and Jerry!” can be the prelude to a massive battle royale.

Even so, I’ll try to be fair.

When I was a kid, long before Ben and Jerry’s became a household term, I met the pair at a book show in Washington D.C. They were hawking their ice cream cookbook and, as a young cook and avid bibliophile, I eagerly snapped up the signed first edition of their tome. Although I left the DC convention center that day with several huge bags of books, Ben and Jerry’s slim volume was in my lap, and I read it and reread it repeatedly over the next few days.

Although it was to be a long time before Ben and Jerry’s came to our neck of the woods, I mixed up several of their recipes in my little ice cream maker. I loved them all. In Massachusetts, where my family spent our summers, B&J’s was available in a few of the markets, so my sisters and I were able to try out a few of the famous flavors. We absolutely adored them.

One of the best things about Ben and Jerry’s was always the emphasis on natural ingredients and the TLC that the pair famously put into every batch. For that reason, I continued to have total loyalty to them, trusting that my ice cream would be free of foul additives, produced with the kind of love that only a couple of tubby Vermont hippies could provide.

In 2000, however, Ben and Jerry’s sold out to Unilever, owners of such premium brands as Slim-Fast, Aqua-Net, Ponds, and Vaseline. Although the packaging and the hippy-dippy homestyle messages remained consistent, I began to notice that the ice cream was not quite so pure. High fructose corn syrup reared its ugly head, as did a few other commercial additives. I soon realized that the sincere dessert that I had grown to love was a thing of the past. In 2005, when my wife, who is allergic to HFCS, was pregnant and craving Chubby Hubby, I had to break out the ice cream maker and whip up a batch. Ben and Jerry’s had truly failed us.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Jerry Greenfield admits that he and Ben deeply regret the decision to sell. However, he notes that, as a publicly-traded company, they had to bow to the wishes of their board of directors. When the board decided that the sale was in the best interests of the company, he and his partner had no choice but to go along. To his credit, he admits that he “sold out,” but notes that “If you happen to believe what Ben & Jerry’s is supporting, then you should support the company […] As Ben says to me all the time, it’s better to stand for something.”

I’m not completely heartless, and I can only imagine how painful it would be to have to let go of one’s company and image. That having been said, I know that Unilever stands for profit. I have no idea what Ben and Jerry stand for.

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