Good-bye Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

by on June 24, 2009 · 20 comments

in Economy, Health

by WereBear / Originally Posted on Daily Kos

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:

They lied.

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.

A travesty.

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.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar doug porter June 24, 2009 at 8:41 am

i walked down to my local grocery store to check this out before suggesting this story for publication. SOME of B&J’s flavors have corn syrup now. ALL have ingredients that didn’t used to be there. As Michael Pollin says, if it has ingredients that your grandma wouldn’t recognize, you might want to think twice about eating it.
the good news is that there are ice creams out there that don’t do the corn syrup/better living thru chemistry route. trader joes’s ice creams are okay, haagen daaz is making a few flavors that skip the extras, and there are others. you just have to read the labels.
one additional bit of advice: skip thre bargain “dreyers” brands. they’re so bad they can’t even call them “ice cream” on the label–they’re called “frozen dessert products.”

Reply

avatar jon June 24, 2009 at 9:41 am

“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.”

This is VERY poignant. There is a huge problem in this country with building cheap, discardable, mostly plastic products that break down and end up in landfills forever. The truth is, we don’t know how long it takes for stuff like plastic to break down, because it never has! Scary.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/05/earth-ikea is an interesting example of a company that claims to be environmentally friendly, but at the same time is building cheap furniture that breaks down and is discarded so that the consumer just runs back to buy more cheap furniture. It’s time to quit hyper-focusing on recycling and turn our efforts toward REDUCING. I’m happy that people are so eager to recycle their plastic water bottles and cans and newspapers, and they shouldn’t stop doing that, but only a portion of that stuff actually gets recycled. It’s still fanning the flames of wasteful enterprise. Instead, go out and get yourself a nice reusable mug or container and the next time you go to your coffee shop, they will most likely give you a friendly little discount for using your own cup. So you will feel good about not wasting, and have extra change in your pocket.

Reply

avatar doug porter June 24, 2009 at 2:07 pm

the corporate masters of ben & jerrys dropped by to read the blog this afternoon as evidenced by our stat counter:

inet02.unilever.com (Conopco Inc)
New Jersey, Paterson, United States, 0 returning visit

Date Time WebPage
24th June 2009 13:54:11 No referring link
Good-bye Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

Reply

avatar Wireless Mike June 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Another example of a corporation taking a good product and making it mediocre. Corporations exist to make profit for their executives and shareholders. Producing and selling products is just one way to make a profit. If they have to lower quality to increase their profit, they do it and hope nobody notices. Once people stop buying that product, they have to find another good product to destroy for more profit.

Homemade ice cream is a pretty good alternative, even if it isn’t as smooth and creamy as the corporate stuff. At least you know what went into it. You can even sweeten it with homegrown stevia.

Reply

avatar Shawn Conrad June 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Once the Japanese get ahold of this the quality will improve. Helllloooooo Ben and Jerryson ice cream.

Reply

avatar Dale Em July 5, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I wondered why the taste was “not quite the same” as I remember from not that long ago. I wondered why there were so few flavors on any supermarket shelves.

Now I know! Keep thinking “Soylent Green” was ONLY a movie.

Hear me, O Unilever! I don’t want crap in my ice cream!

Reply

avatar ew keane July 23, 2009 at 11:59 am

Go get an icecream freezer and start making.
Save your $lave ducat$ to buy bullets.

And no, you are not crazy if you think that Korporate
Amerika is poisoning you, they are and have the full
support of the reigning dictator.

Reply

avatar Michael September 8, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I remember reading a list of unnatural ingredients in Ben and Jerry’s at least 15 years ago. I don’t think it was ever as natural as Haagen Dasz, which is owned by a big corporation but kept its quality. That’s not to push Haagen Dasz. I’m sure there are lots of other smaller brands that are still natural. It’s just to say: read the ingredients! There’s no legal definition of “all natural”. It is not even a well-defined concept. Don’t base your decisions on image. Look at the facts.

Personally, I’d like to see corporations stay out of politics. It just turns off consumers. It makes me less likely to buy their products. It doesn’t matter whether their politics are right-wing or left-wing.

Reply

avatar Cynthia June 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Well…this post is starting to get some traction on Facebook. Maybe good ol’ Unilever is susceptible to viral campaigns?

You know…I lived in France for awhile, out in the country, and was amazed at the number of containers they DON’T buy with their food. They bring their own jugs to the wineshops, jars to the market for honey and cream and sauces, string bags for produce, coolers for the meat. The market vendors will politely (or sometimes not so politely) point you to the basket and bottle sellers if you come in without your containers. Maybe we should take a lesson.

Reply

avatar Sarah June 12, 2010 at 6:17 am

I know this article was posted awhile ago, but I have a comment. The last two times I’ve eated Half Baked from the carton, I’ve tasted something plasticy and chemical-like. I’m wondering what they’ve done to their cartons to cause this. The first time was when I licked the lid and the second was when I got down to the bottom. As tasty as Half Baked is, it is not worth tasting chemicals that make me gag. I will look elsewhere for my ice cream from now on.

Reply

avatar Sarah (not the one above) June 22, 2010 at 1:32 am

It’s funny that another Sarah posted about Half Baked just a week ago, as I have a pint of it on my desk right now. While I agree that the ingredients list has been getting longer, it doesn’t necessarily mean the ingredients aren’t natural. Carrageenan is a seaweed extract that’s been around for at least 2600 years, and guar gum comes from the guar bean.

I recently noticed that Edy’s (Dreyer’s) has been selling “Frozen Dairy Dessert” rather than ice cream (as doug mentioned). I didn’t even notice it on the carton when I bought it. I did notice it when I took a bite and thought, “what the hell is this?” I gave the rest to my boyfriend and went to check the container, where I noticed that it wasn’t ice cream. Their plan to make more money by selling crap at the same price has failed, as I will never buy Edy’s again. I do still find Ben & Jerry’s good enough to buy. Hopefully their ingredients list at least remains pronounceable.

Reply

avatar Laurie B February 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Carrageenan may be made from seaweed, but I will not eat ANYTHING that contains it. It’s a cheap thickener, and ice cream made correctly shouldn’t need any additional thickeners. Carrageenan is well-known to cause digestive problems in people who are sensitive to it. I am now one of those, after ingesting it (unknowingly) for two years in Silk soy milk. Now I can’t have anything containing carrageenan without suffering severe stomach cramps. Nearly all brands of ice cream now contain this crap, so instead of shelling out money for that, I’ll be investing in an ice cream machine to make my own chemical-free ice cream.

It’s getting so we need to start growing and making our own food if we don’t want to eat cheap chemical-laden crap any more. I’m buying from the grocery store less and less these days, and making plans to shop as little as possible. I want to eat food, not chemicals and fillers.

Reply

avatar guthurts & azzcramps August 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Back to the Ben & Jerry’s subject- I’m a Haagendaaz Ice Cream snob myself, will only eat B&J’s when my partner has a coupon for B&J’s and presents the bowl with product to me when I’m very hungry. After last night and the double blowout in our bathroom that ensued exactly 1-1/2 hours later (the partner and I fighting for throne space, you get the picture) I will never touch the stuff again. It was a new carton, never opened, and I couldn’t even finish mine the quality was so poor-it might have well been Dreyer’s or some other fluffed up, fructosed up crapola. Next morning, our guts are still recovering.

Reply

avatar candace February 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I am so saddened to learn of Unilever buyout of my favorite ice cream. And now I understand why it just hasn’t tasted so good. What a sellout.

Reply

avatar Bethany September 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

Hey, you dumbasses know that corn syrup is 99% the same thing as regular sugar, right? Goes through the same processing…made up of the same things…unhealthy for exactly the same reason sugar is unhealthy?

Reply

avatar Kat May 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Umm no.

Reply

avatar mr.rick September 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm

It’s like the difference between heroin and codene. Just because it’s the same doesn’t mean it not different.

Reply

avatar Ed October 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I started eating B&J in the beginning and have enjoyed at least a 1000 pints since, but the last Carmel Chunk and a peanut brittle with a discolored ice-cream and a nasty taste will be my last purchase. A friend of mine once said that big business has no conscious nor nationality hit the nail on the head. Not only has the product gone to hell but they short fill each pint, according to my electronic scale, from ¾ of an ounce to a ounce and a half per 16 (?) ounce carton. If you figure they sell over 100,000 cartons a day that adds up to a tidy profit. Anybody else noticed the voids at the bottom of the carton? I diden’t agree with B&J’s politics and I think they should quit voting and go back to making ice cream.

Reply

avatar wendy July 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I went in search of what went wrong today. Bought this ice cream for because I wanted ice cream that tasted good. Had some and it was disgusting. Not at all the way I remembered it from the 90’s. Powdery and gross. Will never buy again. Thinking of taking it back to the store.

Reply

avatar Big Dee April 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm

It’s not the same. Sucrose (beet or cane sugar) converts to glycogen, a ready energy in your blood. Fructose (HFCS, “corn sugar,” invert sugar, etc) is chemically different, does not convert to glycogen at all in your body, in fact it generally converts into toxins that your liver has to deal with, and it makes you hungry. Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Reply

Leave a Comment

Before clicking Submit, please complete this simple statement to help us weed out the bots... Thank you! *

Older Article:

Newer Article: