I worried, oh how I worried, when my favorite ice cream company, Ben & Jerry’s, was bought out in 2000.
Since I live in their home area, rumors were thick; the giant, Unilever, decided they couldn’t beat them, so they made Ben & Jerry’s join them. I heard from supermarket managers that they were up against losing shelf space, always hotly contested. Stock problems; premium ice cream losing sales; owners getting older.
Whatever the reason, the new corporation pledged to continue the philanthropy and great flavors that had made Ben & Jerry’s so popular.
But, at least as far as the ice cream is concerned:
I’m sure a lot of people didn’t know Ben & Jerry’s got sold. And for a few years, it was not easy to tell. If you weren’t looking for the signs:
Ben & Jerry’s on Wikipedia: After a failed attempt by Ben Cohen to return the company to private ownership, Ben and Jerry’s was purchased in August 2000 by the Unilever conglomerate…
However, in 2002, the Center for Science in the Public Interest accused Ben and Jerry’s of abusing the “All Natural” label for using artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils, and other factory-made substances in their products. Ben and Jerry’s official response was that they used a different definition of “all natural” than the CSPI. In August 2006, Ben & Jerry’s came under criticism from the Humane Society of the United States for using eggs in its ice cream that come from hens confined in battery cages.
I’d read that they addressed these problems, the ugly stuff went off the ingredients list, and we tried to pick up the pieces. We still went down to the local store for Free Cone Day, there were plenty of wild flavors, and Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, and especially, Americone Dream, were still welcome in our freezer.
But we read labels. And, slowly, the ingredients list got longer and less pronounceable.
Look at a recent ingredient list, and I bolded what used to NOT be in there: Cream, Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar, Water, Cherries, Egg Yolks, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Coconut Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Caramel And Red Cabbage Juice Extract (For Color), Guar Gum, Milkfat, Soya Lecithin, Carrageenan
Sad, sad, sad.
And that incredible, vast range of flavors? Shrinking since 2000. I was told that the shops get half the flavors they once had. The final straw was this weekend, when I opened a pint of Dave’s Magic Brownie; and the ice cream was no longer vanilla with real raspberry stripes. It was purple ice cream with soggy, bitter, brownie chunks.
But this is more than my own ice-cream-lover sorrow. It’s everywhere. It’s so damn hard to get good stuff… when our American businesses are busy turning everything to crap.
Thanks, Corporate America. Just another cool thing you’ve destroyed to make another penny per unit. Because that’s the sick part, isn’t it? We would pay a nickel a unit to have the old Cherry Garcia back. I’d pay another five or ten bucks so my jeans would be sewn by a union worker in this country. Corporations are making it harder and harder to hunt down quality stuff. The kind of stuff I want, and am willing to forgo stuff I don’t want, for.
But that is not the way it works for Corporate America. The plan is: drop the price per unit by decreasing quality. Then the Consumer has to buy more for the same level of satisfaction. The jeans wear out sooner. The coffeemaker breaks sooner. The ice cream does not satisfy.
Modern corporations would vastly prefer consumers without choice. Produce was the first to fall into line. They won’t offer a tasty tomato, when the tasteless ones ship better. Why do you think they used to load up baked goods with trans fats? So they can sit on the shelves longer.
Their goal is to remove all that different food from the supermarkets, and replace it with People Chow. Want music? We have Music Chow. Want to read? We have Book Chow.
We have more and more, and enjoy it less and less.
Aren’t you excited? It’s Chow Time.