With this week’s announcement of Ben & Jerry’s new “Saturday Night Live” flavors, we couldn’t help but wonder how far they’ve come. The company touts its wholesome history of founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, starting an ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978. Come 2014, the global brand has a whole roster of unique, playful flavors and partnerships with celebrities. Let’s take a look back at how they got here.
1978: Friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield wanted to make ice cream, so they took an ice cream-making course at Penn State through the mail and found a renovated gas station for $12,000 to open up their scoop shop in Burlington, Vermont.
“Their first flavor was vanilla,” communications director Sean Greenwood told ABC News. “Their signature calling was chunks. They wanted big chunks and swirls instead of little bits. One of their first flavors after vanilla was Oreos in mint ice cream. They’d throw Oreos in whole and people would dig through the ice cream and all of a sudden your spoon would hit a whole frozen Oreo, and people would be blown away. Heath bar was soon after that. They took a whole chunk of Heath bar while it was still wrapped and Jerry would take a hammer and give it a few taps and throw it into the ice cream.”
|Cherry Garcia and Beyond|
1987: Launched as an ode to Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist, Cherry Garcia was Ben & Jerry’s first pop culture flavor. The cherry ice cream with cherries and fudge flakes paved the way for future fun flavors like Phish’s Phish Food.
“The guys have always had a quirky, irreverent sense of humor, and when they first began, they were concentrating so much on the ice cream, but they started having fun with it very soon,” Greenwood said. “We really opened the door for Ben & Jerry’s to be part of the vernacular of pop culture with that cherry ice cream flavor by tying together ice cream and rock and roll, which hadn’t been done before.”
2000: Food giant Unilever, owner of brands such as Lipton, Popsicle, Hellman’s and more, bought Ben & Jerry’s, turning it into a truly global brand. Founders Ben and Jerry are no longer involved in day-to-day management of the company.
2007-2014: The company’s come a long way since its first fan flavor. Since then, Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and, most recently, “Saturday Night Live” to create inspired flavors.