After bonding on the track of their seventh grade gym class Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield found themselves to be the perfect pair. Describing themselves at that time as “the two slowest, fattest kids,” they view food and girth as the tie that's bound them since childhood. After Jerry was rejected by all of the medical schools he applied to and Ben realised he would never be a successful potter, the pair decided to start a business together. They began their journey of frozen frivolity in 1978 with a $12,000 investment, a renovated gas station, and a correspondence course in ice cream making. Nearly four decades later Ben & Jerry’s has become one of the most successful ice cream brands in the world.
Don't get us wrong, Ben & Jerry's ice cream is delicious but it owes its success to far more than just taste. It's built on the foundation of a three-part mission statement encompassing product quality, economic sustainability, and social activism. Through these pillars Ben & Jerry's has created the numerous quirks and quips that make it unique.
The concept of “linked prosperity” manifests itself in every aspect of the company’s functioning. Yes, Ben & Jerry’s seeks to achieve profitable growth, but the company also holds a genuine interest in expanding development opportunities and career growth for their employees.
All of the brownies sourced in Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked and Chocolate Fudge Brownie flavours are from Greyston Bakery, a bakery dedicated to providing jobs and training to low-income city residents in New York.
Quotes from Ben & Jerry's Reddit Ask Us Anything session: "I think one thing that has worked out well for Ben & Jerry's is that the company pays a liveable wage, not just minimum wage, to ALL our workers. And it turns out that it's actually beneficial to the company." At one time "Ben & Jerry's had a compressed salary ratio - the highest paid person in the company didn't make any more than 7 times what the lowest paid person made."
Focusing on the development of “euphoric concoctions,” Ben & Jerry’s cultivates original flavours while maintaining its commitment to using natural ingredients. If the public aren't loving a flavour then it ends up in the Flavour Graveyard, where website visitors can pay tribute to the “dearly de-pinted.”
Quotes from Ben & Jerry's Reddit Ask Us Anything session: "In the early years of Ben & Jerry's, Ben did all the flavour development and quality control for the ice cream. So he was always concerned about having enough big chunks in the pints of ice cream, and when he was testing a pint of ice cream he would eat the entire pint because Ben claims that any ice cream tastes good for 1 or 2 spoonfuls." But apparently, he continues "you need to be willing to make the sacrifice of eating down through the entire pint to make sure that quality holds up."
Ben & Jerry’s is cognisant of the central role that businesses play in society, and it wants to make sure its impact is a positive one. Ben & Jerry's supports a range of initiatives through their business practices and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation. “We both believe that business should be using its power to help address social & environmental issues, and not just making money.” –Greenfield, J. (2015) Dedicated to progressive social change, the Foundation provides grants to grassroots organizations devoted to social and environmental justice.
Another shining example of the way Ben & Jerry's practises social activism is through product naming. The brand named several flavours in support of gay marriage legislation. These include Apple-y Ever After, Hubby Hubby, My Big Fat Greek Gay Wedding and I DOugh I DOugh.
The brand's business philosophies are sometimes counterintuitive to profitability, and it risks alienating customers by taking a strong stance on political, social, and environmental issues. If Ben & Jerry's isn't brave then no brand is. By cultivating an interactive relationship with the local, national, and global communities, Ben & Jerry’s ensures its lasting relevance.