This past week, the lovely ice cream-making duo from Vermont, the world famous Ben and Jerry, made the ever-exciting announcement that by the end of 2011, Ben & Jerry's ice cream will be 100% Fairtrade.
In 2006 Ben & Jerry’s was the first ice cream company in the world to use Fairtrade certified ingredients such as Cocoa, Banana, Coffee, and Vanilla in its products, and with Fairtrade flavors such as Vanilla, Vanilla Toffee Crunch, Chocolate Macadamia, and Chunky Monkey in the UK, B&J’s big Fairtrade announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise.
In the upcoming weeks in the UK, Ben & Jerry’s will be launching a new Fairtrade flavour, Fairly Nuts, and by the end of May, 60% of all of the flavors in the UK will have been converted to Fairtrade. Then, at the end of 2011, 100% of all Ben & Jerry's flavors will be Fairtrade.
To help commemorate this innovative and forward-thinking decision, they've launched something called 100 Fair Trades, which entails Ben & Jerry fans all over the world exchanging "fair trades" for exclusive prizes.
A "trade" can be anything they think is “fair”, whether it be a video of you ploughing their way through a tub of Cherry Garcia or a photograph of you hugging a cow. (Or something more creative than my feeble brain can manage.)
The videos and photographs of the trades will be uploaded to the gallery on the 100 Fair Trades website until Fair Cone Day in April 2010, for everyone around the world to see. (And probably laugh at.)
Ben & Jerry were kind enough to sit down with me during their ice cream party in Leicester Square last week, so I had the chance to talk to them first hand as to how exactly they planned on making this monumental transition, and how exactly they planned on making Fairtrade Phish Food.
Ben, who kindly noted that BitchBuzz “could be a new brand of vibrator”, explained that transitioning into being 100% Fairtrade and sourcing things such as organic caramel and cheesecake is much more complicated than people would expect.
Sipping on a Grande Starbucks coffee and with a fresh Krispy Kreme in hand, Ben said of the Fairtrade transitioning process that it’s easy enough to go Fairtrade if you’re just making chocolate bars using Fairtrade cocoa.
However, the problem with Ben & Jerry’s doing so is that they have “all these little bits in the ice cream” and that they then need to get the suppliers of their sub-ingredients – such as cookie dough balls - to make the Fairtrade change.
As being certified Organic is quite costly (especially for small farms in developing countries) I expected that going Fairtrade would be an equally pricey process, however, Ben says that the way Fairtrade works is that it sets a “floor price”.
The world price of lot of ingredients is set at or higher than the floor price, so initially the price of Fairtrade products isn’t higher. However, things do get a bit more expensive as there is a premium put on Fairtrade prices - the money from which goes to the community that the farmers work in to provide facilities and services such as healthcare centers and schools.
The general public is quite fussy when it comes to things like Organic and Fairtrade products. They expect things that are natural to (ironically) not work as well, or not taste as good – however, to my surprise, Jerry explained that the response they’ve received has not only been positive, but that people are more often than not asking what took them so long:
“People view Ben & Jerry as this very progressive company that is very socically aware and that takes on issues of social justice, so many people would have thought that we would have done this sooner.”
Ben also noted that this attitude is even more prevalent in the United Kingdom, where he says “consciousness of Fairtrade is much more advanced,” and that their challenge is that “in the US, most people haven’t even heard of Fairtrade.”
What I personally love about the 100 Fair Trades project, is that it combines user generated content and the Internet with something quite hippy and green. However, considering that Ben & Jerry’s is such innovative and progressive company, it makes sense that they would merge the worlds of Geek and Green to help spread the word about their Fairtrade transition. (Plus, it’s just good marketing.)
When asked if they were closeted Geeks, Ben disclosed that while he’s “a Mac guy” and currently has an iPhone, the poor AT&T coverage in Vermont has caused him to switch to the new Droid phone and “get Googley”. (Which is basically the best phrase ever.) It also must be noted that Ben geeked out over my nifty Zoom H4n Handy Recorder, so I believe that he is definitely the more tech savvy of the two.
Jerry is very much less of a Geek as he says he a 21-year-old son that he uses for tech support, and that that’s about as techy as he gets. However, he did ask me lots of questions about BitchBuzz, and even corrected someone on the B&J team when they referred to me as a blog. “SHE is not a BLOG, she WRITES for one."
Perhaps the best part of my chat with Ben & Jerry was not only how laid back and friendly they were, but that towards the end of our time together, Jerry suggested that Ben run his idea for a new flavour for women by me, as BitchBuzz is the audience he needs to reach with his idea.
‘You Can Do Better Scotch'.
Ben explained that it would come in a pink tube and that it would be for those broken hearted women who have been let down or dumped by their boyfriends.
And before you get all “why’s it gotta be pink!?” and “why does it have to be the girl that gets dumped!?” trust me that the idea behind is is genius.
As Jerry said, “The idea behind it is that ‘you can do better’ because a lot of guys are jerks.”
Ben happily chimed in exclaiming, ”I’ve been a jerk in the past!” which then lead to the idea that there could even be a quote on the container that says, “ ‘I’ve been a jerk!’ – Ben”
I say this is a millionaire dollar idea.
A Fairtrade ice cream specifically for breakups? Bring it on!
For more information on Ben & Jerry's please visit www.benjerry.co.uk. For more information on Ben and Jerry’s going Fairtrade or on the 100 Fair Trades project, please visit www.100Fair-Trades.com. You can also follow Ben & Jerry’s on Twitter as @benandjerrys.
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