Ben and Jerry’s ice cream brand tries to be cool, laid back and woke. After all, wasn’t their first flavor Cherry García? If you millennials out there don’t get the significance, have you ever heard the Grateful Dead, or are they “so yesterday”? Anyway, Ben and Jerry’s hypocrisy helps me understand why the dead might be grateful. The company is owned by Unilever. Who dat? Only a British-Dutch transnational which is the world’s largest consumer goods company by revenue, that’s who. Just hours after I published my blog post on cultural appropriation, Ben and Jerry’s announced the release of a new flavor–pecan resist–that will fight oppression and president Trump. Just as there’s no cause effect relationship between my blog post and the new flavor, there’s no cause effect relationship between B and Js new flavor and Unilever’s corporate profits (and since I’m on a roll, no cause effect relationship between Nike sponsoring Colin Kaepernick and their corporate profits). After all, if there’s anything the shareholders of a publicly traded company care about more than profits, it’s being woke (not to be confused with waking up in a shareholder meeting).
Justin Solheim, CEO of Ben and Jerry’s, in an interview with Wharton Business School on January 15, 2016, stated that “if Ben and Jerry go out and say, ‘social justice is not our mission anymore’ it undermines the value of the acquisition.” He was answering the question of whether Unilever would allow Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, whose likenesses adorn (or deface, depending on your perspective on physical attractiveness) every container of the ice cream bearing their name, to continue to preach their mission of “social justice”, after they sold the company to Unilever for heap big moolah i.e. $326 million.
How does ice cream fight oppression, you might ask? Solheim said “it’s hard to be angry while eating ice cream” and “lots of people will stop and sign a petition if free ice cream is offered.” I totally agree with the second contention, but the first is highly questionable. Angry people can be angry no matter what they are eating, though I will grant that ice cream is the food most likely to degrade while you are on your angry rant. So what “social justice” causes is “pecan resist” fighting for? Don’t worry, I will deconstruct the social justice slogan by and by.
The flavor is not new; it used to be called New York Super Fudge Chunk, so only the name and design of the container have changed. The new name is meant to “celebrate activists who continue to resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice.” Man, how can you NOT get down for such lofty ideals?? The label is described as “female forward and multicultural.” Is anyone losing their appetite? The company is donating $25,000 to each of four activist groups: color of change, honor the earth, women’s march and neta. You can look them up, I am not devoting blog space that could be used for my heretofore non-existent sponsors. Hey, maybe Ben and Jerry’s will become my first…or maybe not. So they change the name from a decidedly uptown gentrified vibe to a more activist vibe, more in keeping with the Antifa-style of political action, and the label to attract guilt ridden hoi polloi who would dress like the people on the label if they didn’t fear cultural appropriation backlash.
How much revenue will the renamed flavor generate for Unilever? I would wager a tad more than the $100,000 they are donating. Ben and Jerry’s had about $1.8 billion in sales in 2017, good for 4th place among all brands. Unilever, with 8 of the top 15 brands, racked up a 22% market share, far larger than its next competitor. Ice cream has the highest profit margin of any snack food, 23%. I have tried, but failed, to discover the value of Unilever’s sales or profits on ice cream, but if it’s 4th ranked brand had $1.8 billion in sales, the total sales of all its brands is certainly more than double $1.8 billion. 23% of $1.8 billion is $414 million profit on just Ben and Jerry’s sales, let alone those of the parent company. $100,000 is 2/1000% of that–a rounding error, as they call it. So why are People magazine, a variety of media outlets and personalities touting this new named flavor so much?
It isn’t the amount of money, it’s the thought that counts, right? As I said, their ideals have a lofty sound, as does social justice. What grinch wouldn’t want that stuff? But shouldn’t we consider what all that loftiness looks like on the ground? In 2009 they changed the name of Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby to celebrate legalization of same sex mirage marriage in Vermont. Their enthusiasms are sexual deviants’ rights, taxing the United States for the future effects of global warming, in the streets political activism, especially by angry women, and immigrants’ rights. I for one am happy that Ben and Jerry’s is so stingy about their social justice.
Addendum to post: I just read a company statement about their ice cream, to whit: Alongside all those nutty chunks, this pint packs a powerful message under its lid: together, we can build a more just and equitable tomorrow. We can peacefully resist the Trump administration’s regressive and discriminatory policies and build a future that values inclusivity, equality, and justice for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and immigrants. Pecan Resist supports four organizations that are working on the front lines of the peaceful resistance, building a world that supports their values. Obviously, there are more “nutty chunks” in B and J’s marketing dept. under the lid!!!