We are Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Go ahead and ask us anything!
Hi folks. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield here, but you probably just know us as Ben & Jerry.
I (Ben) have done an AMA before, but I'm bringing Jerry along for the ride. Victoria's helping us out via phone today. A little bit about us:
Ben: So, first things first, my favorite flavor is Cherry Garcia. Now that that is out of the way, I am head stamper at the Stamp Stampede and am getting ready to walk across New Hampshire, from Dixville Notch to Nashua as part of the NH Rebellion, which is a nonpartisan movement to put the issue of money in politics at the center of the 2016 presidential primary.
Jerry says: My favorite flavor is Americone Dream. I am on the board of trustees for the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and I spent a lot time over the last year supporting movement to win mandatory GMO labeling both here in Vermont as well as Oregon and nationally. I'm also a mad money stamper.
We're here because January 21st is the 5th anniversary of Citizens United, which was a Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations the ability to spend limitless sums of money to influence our elections.
We hope you join us in asking for a Constitutional Amendment that will keep corporate money out of our elections. Learn more here.
With that out of the way - AUA!
EDIT FROM JERRY
I just want to add our thanks to all the people at reddit who are having some fun with us, and come visit us in Vermont!
EDIT FROM BEN
Or even better - in real life! And don't forget to go to http://www.stampstampede.org/ - get yourself a stamp and you get free ice cream for the next hour!
OOOH! I think that's a great idea. No, I had never thought about having flavors from the graveyard come back for Halloween, but I think the guys here... might work to resurrect them!
I have been waiting my whole life for this moment.
On the description of your flavor "phish food", it states that there are chocolatey shaped fish. Doesn't that imply that there are, in fact, fish shaped like chocolate and not vice-versa? What gives?
EDIT: I was referring to this packaging.
You know, I think Mr. Germ brings up a very interesting...uh...whaddya call...conundrum. And when I lick the fish - lick the ice cream off the fish so I can see them - it's clear that the chocolate is shaped like fish. But I believe that, lexiconically speaking, Mr or Mrs Germ points out a problem that - some kind of problem.
There's a problem.
It's not said quite right.
But the important thing to know is that when you DO lick the fish, you find the fish are smiling.
Ben and Jerry,
Super fan here. Polished off four pints this past weekend (Candy Bar, Half Baked, Mint Chocolate Cookie, & Strawberry Shortcake). Believe it or not, I keep a fairly strict diet outside of ice cream consumption, but there are no substitutes in life for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
I do have one very pressing question. You guys are based in Vermont. Vermont is the United States’ largest producer of maple syrup. Where is the maple syrup infused ice cream? I didn’t forget about the Maple Blondie Limited Batch you guys put out a few years back. That stuff was delicious and I still think about it before bed occasionally. Any thoughts to bring this flavor, or another maple syrup concoction, back into my life?
Thanks for taking ice cream where others dare not venture.
It's a fantastic question.
Ben & Jerry's has made many flavors flavored with maple syrup over the years, dating back to when we first opened in a homemade ice cream parlor in 1978.
And, uh... there is this idea that people have that because Vermont produces so much incredible maple syrup that the natural thing is to put it in Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but unfortunately very few people purchase those flavors.
It is a DELICIOUS concoction. I personally LOVED Maple Blondie when we were making it. But the marketplace has spoken, once again!
Well, in the early early days, I was the ice cream deliverperson.
And in the early early days, we had a Vermont Maple Walnut ice cream. It was a flavor. And nobody ever bought it, and I'm wondering Why is there this flavor and I finally did a promotion one time, at the State Capitol House, and I discovered the only people who eat Maple Walnut are politicians.
I think they're just trying to prove that they're really Vermont-y or something!
Hi Ben & Jerry!!!! You guys don't understand how OBSESSED I was with Half Baked! I would have it literally every day. Unfortunately, I am lactose intolerant. Do you see yourselves creating a dairy free ice cream line in the future? Almond/Coconut based?!! Here is a petition in case you haven't seen :) https://www.change.org/p/tell-ben-jerry-s-you-want-non-dairy-ice-cream-options
EDIT:: I don't mean froyo or sorbet. I mean almond/coconut/rice/banana based vegan ICE CREAM (no soy) :)
Never say never!
What's the secret to remaining friends after working together all these years? Too often we see a falling out between buddies who start businesses together.
Ben and I spend an incredible amount of time together, still. A very large percentage of it eating.
And we... have always shared a love of food. And occasionally it lurches into overeating. But we are trying to curtail that.
Another interesting thing about Ben & me is that we have very similar values in how we see the world. We both believe that business should be using its power to help address social & environmental issues, and not just making money. So that's help define the mission of the company. At the same time, Ben & I have very different skills. Ben is very creative, spontaneous, risk-taking, bounding... adorable... whereas I am more adorable in my own way. Different ways.
Well, Jerry's a lot more diplomatic than I am. In the early days of the company, you know, we'd be walking around, I'd be first, he'd be second, I was just walking faster, and you know, I'd be coming up to people and I'd say "This is wrong, that's wrong, you could do that better" and Jerry would be walking back and saying "What ben MEANT to say was..." he would put it in, you know, a tone that people were more ready to accept the input in. And I have learned quite a bit from Jerry.
I am more cute and adorable NOW because of my relationship with Jerry.
What puts a flavor in the flavor graveyard ?
Flavors go into the Flavor Graveyard if they don't sell enough. If people aren't buying enough of a particular flavor, they go to an early grave sometimes. And it's funny because my particular favorite flavor happens to be in the graveyard. Ben's too!
It doesn't matter if I like the flavor or if he likes the flavor - if not enough people buy it, it goes bye-bye.
What does your day-to-day lives / jobs look like? To what extent are you still involved in Ben & Jerry's, the ice cream brand? If "not at all" what do you do to fill you time on a regular basis right now?
In April 2000, Ben & Jerry's sold the company to Anglo-Dutch multinational food giant Unilever. Unilever said it hopes to carry on the tradition of engaging "in these critical, global economic and social missions". Although the founders' names are still attached to the product, they do not hold any board or management position and are not involved in day-to-day management of the company.
Personally, I'm stamping my balls off.
Thanks for the AMA. How did you decide on Ben and Jerry? Why not Jerry and Ben? Did you flip a coin? Was Jerry mad?
Also, having been recently pregnant and a huge fan of your products, I think you should create a joke flavour pairing like 'pregnancy pickles' ice cream. Mmmmm.
You know, I've heard many stories about pregnant women sending their husbands out on late night ice cream runs.
And they have a particularly specific flavor that they want.
And husband might end up going to 3 or 4 different stores to try and find that flavor.
Obviously, it is VERY important to find the particular flavor a pregnant woman wants.
Ben, at one time, thought of setting up a program whereby there were certain stores that would have ALL Ben & Jerry's flavors - all the time.
"AFISAAT." All Flavors In Stock At All Times.
It obviously is a brilliant idea that Ben & Jerry's has not seen brought about. But that would solve a big problem for many pregnant women and their doting significant others.
Also, here in Vermont, there's a phenomenon known as "Ben & Jerry's babies."
They come out REALLY big.
Those are babies from moms who have eaten a lot of Ben & Jerry's ice cream during their pregnancy. And the babies come out very robust.
Can we please get Mission to Marzipan back?!
No. Next question!
Ben and Jerry,
I have to say your ice cream is incredible. No other brand tastes quite as good as yours. My question, what is the best reaction you have ever seen because of your ice cream?
Well, it was the woman who came up to me and said "I call one thigh BEN and the other thigh JERRY."
If it came down to it, a pure battle of Ben vs Jerry who could eat the most ice cream. Who?
Jerry! Jerry can eat the most ice cream. There is no doubt in my mind.
It's absolutely true. At Ben & Jerry's, we recommend eating ice cream in moderation.
I don't always follow those recommendations.
HOWEVER, I will say in the early years of Ben & Jerry's, Ben did all the flavor 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 you need to be willing to make the sacrifice of eating down through the entire pint to make sure that quality holds up.
This goes along with the whatdya call it - axiom - never trust a skinny ice cream.
Hi Guys, What's your favorite movie?
And do you like the TV Show Game of Thrones and if so who's your favorite character?
I've been thinking a lot about Groundhog Day lately.
I think that was an amazing movie and Bill Murray just hit it out of the park.
And I'm totally clueless about Game of Thrones.
So can we get a hint about any new flavors coming out this year???
We have some new CORES flavors coming out that we're ready to announce next week, so it's taking our popular CORE flavors from this year - with a big dollop of jam or fudge or caramel in the middle - and raising that to new and greater heights!
So next week - there's very little time you have to wait before you can dig in!
Did you see City Slickers and what did you think of the guys portraying "you"?
I thought it was a great movie. They didn't tell us anything about us, or contact us before or since. Most people think they are us, but they're not.
What is your favorite kind of salad dressing?
Now, some people might think it is a non-sequitor, but I just put this on my shopping list.
I want to say that Ken's Lowfat Peppercorn Creamy Salad Dressing is like, the best. TOTALLY the best. It is really really good.
Hey there, I'm a big fan of both your ice cream and your activism. Thanks so much for doing this! Why do you think stamping money is the best way to get the message across to people?
Well, the amazing thing about stamping money is that every time you stamp a dollar bill or $5 or $10 or $20 - about 875 people see it as it gets passed around from person to person. So one person stamping 3 bills a day for a year ends up reaching about a million people. And right now, we've got over 30,000 people around the country that are stamping money with messages like "Stamp Money out of Politics" and it's starting to make an impression ! It's kinda huge.
What's kind of amazing is that everybody wants to get money out of politics - they know that's what's killing the country - and all you need to do is make your voice heard by turning money into media. The Supreme Court said "money is free speech" and we're going to start making our money talk.
Thank you again for doing what you guys do. The Stampede is an amazing thing. Although you highlight stamping, what has been your return of seeing these bills back in change?
Have you thought about doing "Where's George" type of tracking? It would be awesome to see how those bills move.
So yeah, you know, I was in an airport once and got a stamped bill - it's a great feeling. Of course this is a project that goes on for YEARS, and we need to hit critical mass, so it's gonna take a while before people start getting them back, but people are noticing them. If you go on the instagram, the pinterest, you find people who've taken photos of these bills with their smartphones and sent 'em out to their friends just because it's so unusual.
And have we thought about doing "Where's George" system ? Indeed we have, and we are very close to launching a system whereby when people stamp the money, they will have their unique user ID on the stamp, and that way someone who finds it can go report it on a website, so we will see how those bills move around the country.
We're calling it "The society of maniacal stampers." If anybody has a better name, they should let me know.
I am a complete stamper. All my money is stamped, all the time. And, uh, like Ben, I have switched over to spending a lot of cash as opposed to using credit cards - I go to the bank to get lots of $1's, and I am actually in the process of buying a new wallet that will do a better job of holding all my cash. My current wallet has been getting overstuffed, and I'm going to buy one of those wallets that is already spread out - the credit cards are spread out so you don't have as bulky a wallet when you fold it - and that will give me more of an opportunity to fit more stamped money in my wallet.
I'm also considering adding a money clip. Because even with more space - a lot of $1 bills take up a lot of width. So I'm thinking of going to a dual system, whereby I have a thin wallet to begin with, and then adding a thin money clip - not as an accessory -but an essential money management system.
I'd like to go further than that -to expand the discussion to a POCKET management system.
The approach I've been taking is looking at what else is taking up room in my pocket. What I came across was this huge lump of keys. Especially now that car keys are this incredibly huge lump by themselves because of all the electronics. I became aware of a really new design of key-containment called the KeySmart.
So I'm going to use - I have the KeySmart on order, expecting it any day - and that will dramatically decrease the bulk of my wad of keys. Which will allow more room for stamped dollars.
The direction I've been going in - I think Jerry's direction is very interesting - but I've been storing my stamped ones in my breast pocket There's a lot of people who have a breast pocket, but they don't make much use of it. And I find that a little wad of stamped ones fits there, and it's handy and easy to peel out when you are looking to make a purchase.
And just the people who have not yet made the move to cash - cash is cool.
Cash is retro.
I mean, pulling out a wad of money and flipping through is a very cool, debonair, somewhat gangster-ish thing to do. People are impressed.
Waffle or sugar cone?
Well, waffle has 2 meanings - like homemade made there right in the store? Definitely that.
Uhhhhhhh I don't have a good answer for this.
How did you guys come up with the name? ;)
Well, you know, I was trying to be like - I don't know what the heck I was trying to be like. I was thinking we should call it "Josephine's Flying Machine."
It's a song.
Sings Come Josephine, in my flying machine...
So anyway, it was a really stupid idea, which is what Jerry said, and we realized it was traditional for an ice cream parlor to call itself by the names of the owners.
And then the question was: should Ben or Jerry come first?
We decided that the E sound belonged at the end, it just rolled off the tongue better.
Because of that, we made Jerry the president of the corporation. I don't know what i was. Subcommander president?
What's your best Grateful Dead story?
Well, I only met Jerry once.
I had been running a small company called "Rainforest Crunch," it was a cashew-brazil-nut buttercrunch that was conceived at a Grateful Dead concert benefitting the rainforest, the idea was that the rainforest could be as economically viable as if it were sustainably harvested as when it's cut down and used for cattle ranches. What they needed was a market. And one of the products that comes from the rainforest is brazil nuts, so I came up with a product that used a lot of brazil nuts.
It was quite tasty.
And so this guy was doing a - at the time - it was a benefit cassette for the rainforest - and he wanted photos of these various rainforest projects and there were various musicians that had donated tracks and one of them was the Grateful Dead. So he wanted a photo of us all together, during a time when Jerry was performing at the Beacon theater with the Jerry Garcia band. It was the longest-running show they had ever put on there. And you know, somewhere in the middle of this show, they set up this photoshoot in the late morning, 10 or 11 am, we're all there assembled for the shot, and there's no Jerry.
About a half hour later, he walks in and says "Gimme a cup of coffee and a whole lotta aspirins."
Those were the only words he ever said to me.
Do you have any advice for a young entrepreneur?
Do something that you're passionate about. Something that you believe in. Something that is really meaningful to you, as opposed to looking around for what business you think is "Hot" and trying to get into that.
And also, to kind of... personalize the business.
I think customers can feel it when the business is run by someone who really cares about the product or service, and really cares about customers.
And I think that what Ben & Jerry's has proven is that it's not only possible to run a business in such a way that it benefits the society, but that it's... good business sense.
It makes for a very financially successful business.
Because you know, the reality of life, the spiritual reality of life is that as you give, you receive. It works the same for businesses as it does for individuals.
As a business supports the community, the community supports the business.
So I think the key is to combine what is seen as the separate realms of nonprofit / social service / political advocacy with business. They support each other.
What do you do with all of the "imperfect" ice cream at the factory? I know for most of us B&J's fans this sounds like an impossible labeling, but when someone "messes up" what happens?
Well, I think a lot of times what happens is that there's usually too many chunks in it, or not enough, so we strain out the chunks and start again. Sometimes we maybe don't have enough milk, or cream... or sugar... and we'll start again and add that to it.
how is it you're so amazing?
I was just telling someone the other day that the further away you get from where we live in Vermont, the more amazing we seem. The closer you are to us, unfortunately, things come into a little sharper focus.
it's true. Nobody is a prophet in their own hometown. The question is WHY are we amazing? How are we amazing? Who thinks we're amazing?
I think it's not that we're amazing.
Ben & I are two regular guys who didn't have any business training and never expected to be successful businesspeople. And over the years, we've found ourselves having this respected ice cream company, and we're faced with the opportunity of being able to use our voices and our platform to talk about things that are important, and not just what are the needs of a business.
And we're able to try to influence things at Ben & Jerry's to have the activities of the business be addressing human needs, and not just business profitability.
And I think... having that opportunity, that platform, you feel lucky to be able to do it.
What people want to know is: how do you get free ice cream?
All you have to do to get free ice cream, if you're reading this AMA:
go to the StampStampede.org website, you order a stamp, and we (at the Stampede) are gonna assume that anybody who orders a stamp in the next hour came from reddit Ask me Anything.
And we are gonna send a free pint of ice cream to ANYBODY who gets a stamp in the next hour.
So how can I get free ice cream?
There you go.
Hey Ben, avid stamper here. So glad you're doing this! And hi Jerry! I've been stamping for a while now and I love it, so what's next for the Stampede?
Well, we're launching our yearlong project in New Hampshire- the presidential primaries are occuring there right now, the candidates are already coming through, and our project is to flood NH with stamped money. So we have calculated that there are 32 MILLION $1 bills circulating in New Hampshire - we want to be 10% of them stamped - so that when the presidential candidates come in and the press, they are all finding stamped bills that say "NOT TO BE USED FOR BUYING ELECTIONS." So that's 3.2 million. We are on track to get 6,500 people in New Hampshire stamping money. If each one of them stamps 3 bills a day - that would be just about 1,000 bills - and 1,000 times 6500 is 6.5 MILLION - double what we need! So that's the plan.
And you can do this in any of the early primary states - that would help.
Ever thought of having dead flavours come back from the graveyard over Halloween?
edit- Holy wow, thanks for the replies guys! Since this has apparently exploded I'll confess for full disclosure that I honestly can't remember whether I actually came up with this, dreamed it, heard it mentioned somewhere or read it on here or what, but it'd definitely be cool if this were a thing to put the Reddit sticker on. :D
View HistoryShare Link