Saturday morning, September 7, 2019
Today, we paid a visit to Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury. Any ice cream aficionado will tell you that this is the number one reason to visit Vermont. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 1978, and they opened their first “scoop shop” in Burlington, Vermont. In 1978, they began franchising the shops, and they now have locations all over the world. It continues to thrive as part of the Unilever family of brands. In 2018, there were 54 flavors available, including my favorite (Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!) and my husband’s (Cherry Garcia.)
In 1985, Cohen and Greenfield created the Ben & Jerrys Foundation, donating 7.5% of the company’s pretax profits to philanthropy. When we chose our tour, The Flavor Fanatic Experience, we were given the option of devoting a portion of the fee to one of three charities:
- The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire a love of reading and writing among children up to age 12 throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. We opted for this one which aligns so closely with our own desire to promote education.
- Salvation Farm‘s mission is to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management. They also grow some of the fruits used by Ben’s and Jerry’s.
- Migrant Justice‘s mission is to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights.
First we toured the factory – no photos allowed. Our tour guide explained the process and talked about some of the local vendors that they get products from, including Salvation Farm, and Cabot Creamery, a farm co-op based in Vermont. Dairy waste is returned to local farm suppliers to use for producing energy. Ben & Jerrys also source many Fairtrade certified ingredients. At the end of the tour we sampled some ice cream, which we could enjoy guilt free – almost! The flavor today was Sweet Like Sugar Cookie Dough – it was very sweet, with a crunchy texture just like a sugar cookie.
After the factory tour, we did the Flavor Fanatic Experience, which allowed us to go into the Flavor Lab and whip up a batch of ice cream ourselves – Vanilla Caramel Brownie. We mixed vanilla into the heavy cream, sampled it (of course), then poured it into the mixer/chiller (a very expensive machine). All throughout the process, we learned more about what’s involved in making quality ice cream – the correct blend of cream and milk, the best ingredients, the balance of flavors – everything that makes a delicious batch of creamy, cold goodness.
Once the ice cream was of soft-serve texture, we took it out, spooned it into a couple of containers, then added brownies (sampling again) and stirred to mix thoroughly.
Next, we layered the caramel – lots of gooey caramel – and gave it a final mix before spooning it into a box and putting it in the freezer.
Did I mention that we sampled it? This carton will be tested by Quality Control, and if it’s not contaminated by our activities, will be served for sampling at a future factory tour. All of this was followed up with an ice cream cone! We were so sugared up that we forgot to visit the Flavor Graveyard – darn! We’ll just have to come back.
This was all before noon. What a delightful experience, and we even get to keep these snazzy smocks.