When I first received the invite to visit Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream HQ in Burlington, Vermont, I thought it was a mistake. I received invites to events in LA all the time, but I assumed that the PR company thought I was based in New York or in the East Coast. After not hearing from me, Kelly Mohr at Ben & Jerry’s followed up and reiterated that they would take care of all travel arrangements. Gasp! I guess I missed that part on the first email. I checked my calendar and then got excited, I guess I was spending my birthday in Vermont.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream had arranged for us to stay at the Hotel Vermont and when I arrived I was greeted by a lovely goodie bag featuring local treats including a can of Heady Topper (apparently this is a big deal for beer enthusiasts as it was named #1 beer by Beer Advocate), a can of Citizen Cider, chocolates from Lake Champlains Chocolates, a brownie from Greyston Bakery, Vermont maple syrup from The Syrup Shop, and a warm fleece sweater from Patagonia. The hotel was gorgeous and the room was amazing. Everything in it was from local Vermont, and I was loving this trend of using and promoting locally made products. Throughout my entire visit, I learned that people were very proud of Vermont and that Ben & Jerry’s was one of the biggest things from the state.
The next morning, we met the Ben & Jerry’s PR team and headed off to Penny Cluse for breakfast. All of the restaurants that the team chose were all “farm to table” and used local ingredients. After our meal, we were all shuttled over to the Ben & Jerry’s Central office for a full day of ice cream fun. We were able to talk to several people there including David Stever, Chief Marketing Officer, and Andy Barker, Head of Social Mission. It was great to learn about the company’s three missions and the fact that they were a B-Corp. I knew little about these companies but Ben & Jerry’s opened my eyes to this whole new world of companies that did things a certain way that benefited the community. I am very interested in this and I will be doing some research on B-Corps in LA and supporting them by buying their products and partnering with them. I’d like to make my company a B-Corp as much as possible, I certainly believe in the philosophy.
We then split up into teams to create our own flavors with Eric Fredette & Peter Lind of the R&D department. The bloggers got competitive since the prize was Ice Cream of the Month Club for a year, and of course- bragging rights. I got teamed up with my friend Amanda Topper, blogger for the Ghost Guest and food analyst for Chicago Foodies; Nicole Perry, food writer for PopSugar Food, and Sandy from Dallas. Our flavor was Maple Brown Butter Ice Cream with Speculoos Cookie Bits & Swirl Plus a Splash of Bourbon. We called ourselves the Bourbon Babes, and Eric helped us create this flavor. We started out with the white, sweet cream base and then poured in the maple and some vanilla. We also added in some brown butter base plus the bourbon. After freezing the ice cream we dropped in the Speculoos swirl and Biscoff cookie bits. We called it, “Oh Sap!” (you snap your fingers and say it all sassy!) It was delicious!
The next day, we started with a visit to one of the dairy farms that participates in Ben & Jerry’s Caring Dairy program. We got to meet (and smell) the cows and saw that they were treated very well and had nice ample space to roam, food to eat, and comfy beds to lay on. We also met some really young cows that were pretty Instagram-phobic. Moo!
After the visit to the rural outskirts of Vermont, we headed over to Waterbury to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. We were taken through the tour by our guide, Owen who was very aCOWmmodating – yes his tour was full of puns! He walked through the process from “cow to cone” as well as talks with manufacturing and quality control. We were able to eat Coffee Toffee Crunch ice cream “off the line” (this means freshly produced and taken directly from the factory line) and it was the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Apparently, this is a rare privilege that only some people experience in their lifetime!
We then headed outdoors to go snowshoeing, something that I had never done before- it involves strapping your boots into these things that look like mini skis but wider. There are metal spikes on the bottom that clamp on to the snow, and the wide structure helps you glide. I really loved the experience and if we had more snow in LA, I’d probably get some. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. Our snowshoeing adventure took us around the factory and ended at the Flavor Graveyard where the “dead” Ben & Jerry’s flavors resided including Creme Brûlée, etc. We said our peace and headed back in for even more ice cream.
Our last dinner was at The Guild and we were all anxious to find out whose flavor had won. We had an awesome surprise awaiting us at the restaurant – Ben Cohen, the “Ben” of Ben & Jerry’s. The actual Ben & Jerry were no longer part of the company, which is now owned by Unilever, but will forever be part of the story. He took part in the reveal of the winners and sure enough the Bourbon Babes were victorious! We enjoyed our last dinner with new friends and had some Oh Sap! for dessert.
The PR team and everyone at Ben & Jerry’s were so welcoming and accommodating. They went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed and definitely took care of us above and beyond the norm. The trip opened my eyes to the B-Corp philosophy, social mission, and the beauty and culture of Vermont. I learned so much on this adventure and have a renewed perspective on Ben & Jerry’s. They are not just an ice cream company at all. They really care about the products and using quality ingredients, since they have committed to being fair trade and non-GMO, their employees, and the community. The next time I shop the freezer aisle, I will forever think about my fun and super sweet adventure in Vermont with Ben & Jerry’s.