By RUTH BORDETT
For most of the U.S. population, or at least those who inhabit Vermont, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream are regarded as mythical creatures of sorts.
However, as those who attended Saturday night’s Fredericksburg Forum in Dodd Auditorium discovered, the two creators are just your typical hippie millionaires who happen to really like ice cream.
As the story goes, Cohen and Greenfield became fast friends after first meeting in seventh grade gym class in Merrick, Long Island, N.Y. Both went on to attend college. Cohen dropped out of several different schools, and Greenfield was not accepted to medical school as he had planned.
Left feeling lost by the course their lives had taken, the childhood friends decided on a whim to open an ice cream shop together, despite having no previous business experience.
Greenfield highlighted the company’s humble beginnings, which included taking a $5 correspondence course on ice cream-making from Penn State University and copying their business plan from a pizza shop.
The two decided to open their new business in an abandoned gas station in the college town of Burlington, Vt. for the simple reason that there were no other ice cream shops located in the New England town. They also noted that the state “has a good dairy industry and is environmentally pristine.”
The business expanded, first to packaging in pints, which led to sales in surrounding states, and then competition followed. Although the creators took their success in stride, they found themselves bothered by the lack of morals in the business world.
Cohen went into detail about the ethics upheld by the company and their prioritization of the environment. The company is fully aware of the importance of business in today’s world.
“Business is the most powerful source in society. It controls our legislation, media and everyday lives,” said Cohen.
The difference between Ben and Jerry’s and other companies that take advantage of their power is that Ben and Jerry’s uses the power their company holds to improve communities by eliminating the mindset of division between social and financial needs.
“We are all interconnected in helping others, we help ourselves,” said Cohen.
Focused on protecting the environment, the company has found many ways to carry out its passion for the environment. For example, the ice cream flavor Rainforest Crunch was invented out of a desire to use Brazil nuts harvested in the rainforest and ultimately aid the sustainability of the Brazilian rainforest.
A question and answer session with the ice cream aficionados allowed the audience to ask their burning questions. Greenfield admitted to having a freezer containing 40 to 60 pints of ice cream. They also revealed the story of how they “received an anonymous postcard from a couple deadheads suggesting the flavor Cherry Garcia.”
Jacqueline Nova, a UMW senior and geography major, attended the forum.
“I liked that they talked about their ideas and processes,” Nova said.
However, she wanted to hear more about the ice cream. “I wish they had talked more about the naming of flavors.”
Although the story of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream is one of great success, it has not been without failure. It just so happens that all of the famed ice cream duo’s missteps have come in the form of failed ice cream flavors.
After all, without experimentation in ice cream flavors and the inevitable rejected flavors that wind up in the “flavor graveyard,” such Ben and Jerry’s classics as Cherry Garcia and Phish Food would have never been created.