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May 25, 1990 - Image 47

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-05-25

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Special to the Jewish News

erry Greenfield is
honest about his cu-
linary passions.
"I've always loved
to eat quite a bit!" he
says from his plant in Water-
bury, Vt. And so, when he and
partner and longtime friend,
I Bennett Cohen, were looking
around for a business they
could create and call their
r own, "we just naturally
I gravitated toward food."
They first thought about
making bagels, Greenfield ex-
plains, but gave up on the
idea when it turned out to be
an expensive proposition. "So
) we settled on ice cream in-
stead," says the co-creator of
Ben and Jerry's Homemade,
Inc. "We figured it would be
cheaper. It turns out it costs
about the same, but ig-
norance really is bliss!'
Ben and Jerry's ice cream
empire was founded in 1978
in a renovated gas station in
Burlington, Vt., with a
$12,000 investment, $4,000 of
which was borrowed. With
the help of an old-fashioned
rock salt ice cream-maker and
a then $5 correspondence
course in ice cream-making
from Penn State under their
belts, they soon became
popular for their funky,
chunky flavors, made from
fresh Vermont milk and
cream. A year later, they were
delivering Ben and Jerry's ice
cream to grocery stores and
restaurants, and in 1981 their
ice cream was hailed as "the
best in the world" by Time
Since 1985, each fiscal year
has seen a sales increase of
) more than $10 million, more
than was pulled in during the
first five years combined. Also
in 1985, Ben and Jerry's
moved its corporate head-
quarters and ice cream fac-
tory from greater Burlington
to Waterbury, into a new
43,000 square-foot facility
where up to 400,000 gallons
of ice cream per month is
In 1988, Ben and Jerry's
opened a second manufactur-
ing facility in Springfield, Vt.,

Ben and Jerry's
ice cream founders have turned
over 7.5 percent of their profits to charity.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield say their home-made ice cream business has allowed them to be

to produce its ice cream
novelties — Brownie Bar
Sandwiches and Peace Pops.
Other Ben and Jerry's
company-owned shops and
franchises are now springing
up all over the country.
Before they reached this
level of success, Greenfield
had been trying, and failing,
to get into medical school.

Cohen, a college dropout, had
gone through various dead-
end jobs. Among other things,
he was a night janitor at
Friendly's, a Manhattan cab
driver, a security guard and a
pottery teacher for emotional-
ly disturbed children.
When they joined forces and
started their ice cream em-
pire, "we were expecting to be

in it for two to three years,"
Greenfield says. "We were
just looking for something
that would be fun to do, where
we could be our own bosses
and have a good time!'
A dozen years and millions
of dollars later, they are still
having a good time. But they
are also doing much more.
The duo is trying to teach the

rest of the world that doing
well in business and doing
well in the world are not
mutually exclusive.
In 1985, they started the
Ben and Jerry Foundation,
which allocated 7.5 percent of
the company's pre-tax profits
to social causes.
In 1988, Ben and Jerry's Ice
Cream created a new
chocolate-covered bar and a
new cause, encouraging cuts
in the U.S. military budget.
They pledged one percent of
their business' pre-tax profits
to a new group called 1 Per-
cent for Peace. Their mission
was to pursuade Congress to
cut one percent, some $3
billion, from the military
budget and allocate it
towards international peace
For their work, they were
recently named the 1990 win-
ners of the Business Ex-
ecutive for Nuclear Age Con-
cern (BENAC) Peace Award.
"Our basic philosophy is
that business should be fun,"
Greenfield says. "But we are
also of the opinion that
business should have a social
mission as well as a profit and
product mission.
All three parts of that are
equally important to us. Ben
sees business as a vehicle for
making the world a better
place to live and has come up
with a new product called
Rainforest Crunch ice cream,
which uses cashews har-
vested in the rain forest to
make the forests more pro-
fitable. The company we buy
from donates 60 percent of
profits back to peace and en-
vironmental issues.
"Both of us understood at
the start," Greenfield says,
"that if we were going to be
successful, we were going to
have to depend on the support
of a lot of people in the com-
munity. So it seems kind of
crazy not to want to give back
to support people who have
supported you." ❑



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