While Ben Cohen has previously done a Reddit AMA, yesterday’s AUA was Jerry Greenfield’s first time. Although they sold the company to Unilever in 2000, Ben and Jerry still have a lot of creative control over the ice cream and corporate culture parts of the business. For example, the dress code didn’t suddenly start requiring everyone to wear suits—a thought that probably just seems wrong to Ben & Jerry’s fans.
First, there were the introductions to kick things off:
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.”
If you like your life insights as filtered through ice cream, here are the 10 best lines from Ben & Jerry’s Reddit AUA.
On staying friends after working together a really long time
Jerry: 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.
Ben: 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.
Jerry: He’s sweet!
On how a flavor ends up in the Flavor Graveyard
Jerry: 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!
Ben: 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.
On who could eat the most ice cream in a straight-up battle
Ben: Jerry! Jerry can eat the most ice cream. There is no doubt in my mind.
Jerry: 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.
Ben: This goes along with the whatdya call it – axiom – never trust a skinny ice cream.
On the ambiguousness of the phrase “chocolatey shaped fish” on some Phish Food packaging
Ben: 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.
On counter-culture business philosophies that worked and didn’t work
Jerry: I think one thing that has worked out well for Ben & Jerry’s is that the company pays a livable wage, not just minimum wage, to ALL our workers. And it turns out that it’s actually beneficial to the company. In addition to that, we’ve just finished converting to Fair Trade ingredients, and also converting to all non-GMO ingredients. And the company’s been able to do that without raising the price of ice cream as a result of that.
I think one thing that we weren’t able to make work was the salary ratio. Earlier on, 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. And we weren’t able to make that work when we first recruited a CEO from outside of the company. We weren’t able to find somebody in a short enough period of time, and so from that point on the company paid market wages for all our executives.
On why there’s no maple-infused ice cream since they’re from Vermont
Jerry: 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!
Ben: Well, in the early early days, I was the ice cream deliveryperson.
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!
On what they do with all their free time since they sold the company
Ben: Personally, I’m stamping my balls off.
Jerry: Well, I still work at Ben & Jerry’s, as does Ben.
And the central work of my job consists of portraying the person known as “Jerry.”
And I’m constantly trying to improve that portrayal. And in addition, I do some non-profit work – I’m the president of the Ben & Jerry’s foundation.
On the crucial link between Ben & Jerry’s and pregnant women
Jerry: 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.
Ben: 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.
On having dead flavors come back from the Flavor Graveyard for Halloween
Ben: 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!
Jerry: We could call it re-incone-nation.
On the best ice cream reaction they’ve ever witnessed
Ben: Well, it was the woman who came up to me and said “I call one thigh BEN and the other thigh JERRY.”
Jerry: I like it when people come up and talk about how they have Ben & me in their freezer, as if our little heads are stuck inside their freezers!