November 28, 2021

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‘Our ice cream is not a health food’ [Video]

Ben & Jerry’s is fully embracing non-dairy desserts, in keeping with the booming demand for alternative foods.

On Tuesday, the ice cream giant unveiled a non-dairy version of its ever-popular ‘Phish Food’ flavor, which follows the company’s most recent non-dairy launch ‘Change the Whirled’ (made to honor veganite Colin Kaepernick) back in December.

“This is a big day,” Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview. He explained how customers routinely asked for more flavors of its vegan and non-dairy offerings after the brand first began developing the new varieties in 2016.

Today, nearly one third of Ben & Jerry’s flavors are non-dairy, and parent company Unilever (UL) is fully on board. It recently announcing plans to achieve €1 billion ($1.2 billion) in sales of plant-based protein and dairy alternatives in the next 5-7 years.

After an explosive 2020 fueled by a push for healthier alternatives, plant-based brands like Beyond Meat (BYND), Impossible Foods and Oatly have all benefitted from the health-conscious consumer.

Yet, Ben & Jerry’s is much more interested in keeping the world healthy rather than customers’ waistlines.

“So, no, our ice cream is not a health food. It’s not designed to be a healthy thing.”Ben & Jerry’s CEO

The non-dairy ‘Phish Food’ is still 330 calories per serving — on par with Ben & Jerry’s other sweet treats and just slightly less caloric than the regular ‘Phish Food’ flavor, which sits at 390 calories per serving.

“We will continue to stand for indulgent, super premium ice cream and frozen desserts — we may do other things — but that’s really the heart of what Jerry and Ben created almost 43 years ago,” McCarthy said.

“So, no, our ice cream is not a health food. It’s not designed to be a healthy thing, but our focus in creating the same delicious, over-the-top, super premium ice cream in a non-dairy dessert still has to be at the same standards,” he continued.

The CEO added that a healthier-for-the-planet mindset is a “growing traction” amongst consumers, but “that’s not to be confused with dietetic or health foods.”

Ben & Jerry's leans into vegan flavors (Courtesy: Ben & Jerry's)
Ben & Jerry’s leans into vegan flavors (Courtesy: Ben & Jerry’s)

Unilever, which sells more than 400 brands in 190 countries, has committed to aiding the climate crisis with plans to remove fossil fuels in its laundry, and cleaning brands and make all 70,000 of its products biodegradable over the next decade.

Additionally, Ben & Jerry’s released a new vegan ice cream flavor in the UK called ‘Save Our Swirled NOW.’ Coupled with the release, the company is urging customers to sign a declaration calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “lead the UK towards a healthier, greener, fairer future.”

McCarthy explained that the ice cream maker is “an aspiring social justice company, a company that tries to do the right thing and to advance progressive values both on social justice and on climate justice and often the intersection between the two.

As a result, corporate social responsibility is “integral” to the brand’s identity and that transparency usually translates to better business, he said.

“The more that our fans know about the work that we are trying to do through our products, the more they are interested in participating,” he added.

Alexandra Canal is a producer & entertainment correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193.

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