20 Things You Didn't Know About Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's brown butter ice cream

Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

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Ben & Jerry's brown butter ice cream
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

Here's the Scoop

If, after digging into a pint of Chunky Monkey (or after you've made your own creamy concoction), you've wondered what it's like to work at Ben & Jerry's or how the company really began, good news — the beloved ice cream company has shared a slew of "totally random fun facts for your next trivia night" that sparked some further exploration. Read on for our sweet findings.

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Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

The Founders Really Are Old Friends

Ben & Jerry's creators – and namesakes – Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in the seventh grade, fellow students in a 1963 gym class at Merrick Avenue Middle School on New York's Long Island. They bonded over a shared lack of ability to run a 7-minute mile.

chefs making ice cream

They Took a $5 Ice-Cream Making Class

The longtime friends, whose college and early career days led them on different paths, decided in 1977 to go into business together. They moved to Vermont, completed a $5 ice cream-making correspondence course ("They got a perfect score because the test was open book" according to company notes) and the next year, opened the original Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream Parlor in Burlington.

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They Originally Wanted to Make Bagels

The business venture was originally going to focus on bagels, delivering bagels along with their fixings plus the Sunday paper. The glitch? The bagel-making equipment proved to be too expensive for the fledgling entrepreneurs, so ice cream became the featured product. (To note: A 2018 British promotion featuring the ice cream bagel brought it all full circle).

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Josephine's Flying Machine
Wikimedia Commons

They Had A Ridiculous Name

The business start was quirky, a trait that would come to be synonymous with the company. At first, Cohen wanted to call the company "Josephine's Flying Machine," a reference to a song first published in 1910 and later parodied by Spike Jones & His City Slickers, but was overruled by Greenfield. Their own names would have to suffice.

Related: 23 Big Names and Companies That Had to Rebrand to Avoid Being Canceled

Ben & Jerry's gas station ice cream parlor
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

They Sold Other Stuff

That early college-town shop also sold soup, crepes, and pottery. Cohen had an interest in pottery and was even once a private-school craft teacher.

Related: 20 Old-School Crafts Due for a Comeback

vanilla ice cream cone

They Were Plain at First

For a company noted for its wildly creative flavors, it might come as a surprise that the first flavor crafted by Ben and Jerry was plain ol' vanilla. The legacy of that straightforward start, though, is rich. Over the years, the company has produced 43 flavors featuring vanilla in their name.

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blueberry ice cream

Their Original Flavors Aren't On the Menu

The first eight flavors to be sold as pints were Oreo Mint, French Vanilla, Chocolate Fudge, Wild Blueberry, Mocha Walnut, Maple Walnut, Honey Coffee, and Honey Orange. Not familiar with any of them? That's understandable, since none of the original eight have survived the test of time.

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Jerry Had His Own Way of Cracking Toffee

Making ice cream is a pretty creative process — and it seems like Ben & Jerry's has an appropriately playful approach. It's said that Jerry used to drop entire boxes of toffee from the top of a ladder to create the necessary pieces for making Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch.

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New York Superfood Chunk Ben & Jerry's ice cream
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

The Real Story Behind the Chunks

Ben has a condition called anosmia, which leaves him without a sense of smell. It's said that is one of the reasons Ben & Jerry's creations are so packed with flavor, chunks and swirls is to add to Ben's enjoyment of the product. (Thanks, Ben!)

Related: 27 Indulgent Ice Cream Sundaes Across America

Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

A Fan Created One Legendary Flavor

Ben & Jerry's is one company fine with giving credit where it's due: "We created Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough after a fan anonymously suggested it at our first Scoop Shop. It's since become an ice cream legend." It's said to be the company's most popular flavor worldwide.

Related: 50 Unique Ice Cream Flavors and Creations

Ben & Jerry's Waterbury Factory
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

It's a Fun Place to Work

The prospect of working at Ben & Jerry's is just as appealing as you'd suspect. The company offices are dog-friendly, feature a slide and a treehouse, and all the meeting rooms at the company headquarters are named after ice cream flavors  ("Marketing meeting at 11 in The Chunky Monkey Room"). Oh, and employees get to take home three pints of ice cream per day.

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Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

There's a Flavor Graveyard

Ben & Jerry's pays homage to the 300-plus flavors whose sweet days have come to an end — or as the company says, "moved on to the great waffle cone in the sky" — with its Flavor Graveyard. The walk through the "dearly de-pinted" offers the chance to pay respects to (and vote for the resurrection of) everything from Wavy Gravy to Purple Passion Fruit, Oh Pear to Vermonty Python, and Turtle Soup to Economic Crunch. (Let's hope there's no cause to revive that 1987 stock market crash-inspired option).

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There's a Single Ingredient They've Only Used Once

One might think a company that's been around more than 40 years has crafted flavors out of nearly every ingredient imaginable. That's why it's pretty surprising to learn that raisins have appeared only once in Ben & Jerry's ice cream, in Dastardly Mash, featuring chocolate ice cream with pecans, almonds, raisins, and chocolate chips and served up from 1979 to 1991.

Related: 23 Foods We Miss From the '70s and '80s

Ben & Jerry's cookie dough core ice cream
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

They Have Core Values

Ben & Jerry's prides itself on being the first company to create cores, ice cream pints that feature a thick core of what it describes as "something euphorically awesome (like caramel or brownie batter) in the middle." Keep that sweet thought in mind when you hear this additional fact shared by Ben & Jerry's — the machinery used to make the Cores is based on a German sausage maker.


They Keep Things Kosher

Despite the American obsession with all things bacon, ice cream lovers will never find that pork product in their Ben & Jerry's, as the company notes that the often-requested ingredient must be bypassed to maintain the company's kosher-certified status.

Related: 26 Amazing Bacon Dishes Across America

Ben & Jerry's oatmeal cookie chunk
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

Limited Batches Tend to Stay That Way

Does a turn as a limited edition make a flavor a shoo-in for Ben & Jerry's success? Not very often. The only flavors introduced as limited batches to make it to full-time flavor status were Chocolate Therapy and Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.

Thrill Seeking Seniors

They've Had Wild Promotional Stunts

Ben & Jerry's never shies away from a stunt. They have special-event hot air balloons, including the one shaped like a 100-foot-tall waffle cone filled with Cherry Garcia ice cream. Contests have offered rides in it. Then there was the Cowmobile, a converted RV Ben and Jerry took on a national tour in the late 1980s to give away ice cream and promote the brand. Unfortunately, it caught fire on the return trip. No one was hurt, and Ben was said to have quipped that it looked like a "giant Baked Alaska." More recent was the 2017 installation of a giant bowl of cereal in New York City's Grand Central Terminal to celebrate the launch of the cereal milk ice cream flavors.

Related: 27 Craziest Marketing Stunts of All Time

black and white cow
Clara Bastian/istockphoto

The Cow on the Pint Has a Name

If you've been captivated by that simple-yet-endearing cow image on the Ben & Jerry's packaging, we bet you didn't know its name is Woody. That's in honor of Vermont artist Woody Jackson, who designed the signature bovine in 1983. Jackson's work, including early cow designs, is now quite collectible.

Ben & Jerry's Unveils New Ice Cream Flavor In Support Of The Advancement Project National Office
Win McNamee/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

The Brand Gives Back

Despite its penchant for fun, the company has long been noted for socially conscious and philanthropic efforts reflecting the ideals of the company's founders, as well as its approach to operating a socially responsible business. Since the 1980s, the company has sourced its brownie chunks from Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, a bakery that gives jobs to those who have faced barriers to employment.

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