Happy Accidents #016 - Ben & Jerry's
Two Happy Accidents — Several happy taste buds!
Today we're talking about Ben & Jerry's, one of the most beloved ice cream brands in the world.
But did you know that it was a couple of Happy Accidents that helped their business really take off?
Let's dig in, shall we?
SETTING THE STAGE
It all began in 1977 when Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, two childhood friends from New York, decided to take a $5 correspondence course in ice cream making from Penn State.
They originally met in a seventh-grade gym class in 1963 but didn't become business partners until years later, when they both failed to find success in other ventures.
And lucky for us, ice cream it was!
They opened their first ice cream shop, the Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream Parlor, in Burlington, Vermont in 1978.
But it wasn't until a year later that they stumbled upon their first big hit.
THE HAPPY ACCIDENT(S)
One day, sparked by an anonymous suggestion on their flavor suggestion board Ben and Jerry decided to make a batch of ice cream using chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough instead of the usual chocolate chips.
They expected the cookie dough to just melt and blend into the ice cream, but instead, it stayed intact and created a delicious, chunky texture that people went crazy for!
That flavor, called "Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough," quickly became one of their bestsellers and is still a fan favorite today.
But the happy accidents didn't stop there!
In the early days, Ben & Jerry's also struggled with storage space for their ice cream.
They used old pickle and sauerkraut barrels to store their ice cream, which gave it a unique, slightly tangy flavor that their customers loved.
That's how the flavor "Cherry Garcia" was born - a tribute to Jerry Garcia, the late guitarist of the Grateful Dead, who was a fan of the ice cream.
Ben & Jerry's soon became known for their unusual and creative flavors. By offering something different from the standard ice cream flavors, they were able to stand out from the competition and attract a loyal customer base.
They relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing to spread the word about their brand. Ben and Jerry both encouraged their customers to tell their friends about their ice cream and even offered free scoops to those who brought in new customers.
But they didn't rest on their laurels. They were always looking for ways to innovate and improve their products.
They were one of the first companies to use all-natural ingredients in their ice cream and also experimented with new packaging and distribution methods to make their products more accessible to customers.
And today, they're one of the most widely know and loved ice cream brands in North America.
Imagine, two different Happy Accidents leading to two of their most popular flavors. Wow! Now that's newsletter worthy!
Some fun facts:
The company was originally going to be a bagel business, but the equipment was too expensive, so they switched to ice cream instead.
Ben & Jerry's has a long history of advocating for social and environmental issues, including promoting fair trade practices and fighting against climate change.
The flavor graveyard at their factory in Vermont is a resting place for all of their retired flavors, including Wavy Gravy and Cool Britannia.
The lessons here:
Don't be afraid to pivot: Ben & Jerry's initial business model wasn't working, so they switched to creating and distributing pints of ice cream. This allowed them to focus on what they did best and ultimately led to their success.
Innovation pays off: Ben & Jerry's innovative flavor combinations, like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cherry Garcia, set them apart from their competitors and helped them become a nationally recognized brand.
Social responsibility matters: Ben & Jerry's has always been committed to supporting social and environmental issues, and this commitment has helped them build a loyal following of customers who share their values.
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