Ben & Jerry’s evolves to meet current trends

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ben & Jerry's first light ice cream launched with three flavors early this year that are expected to hit shelves throughout 2018.
Ben & Jerry's first light ice cream launched with three flavors early this year that are expected to hit shelves throughout 2018.

Related tags: Ice cream, Non-Dairy, vegan

Ben & Jerry’s has adapted its 40-year-old ice cream brand to the changing food landscape with innovative and expansive launches.

Consumers still love to indulge in dessert, and Ben & Jerry’s has been an iconic part of the category for decades. But with a shift toward low-calorie and low-sugar products within food and beverages in the last few years, the brand has made some adjustments.

Balancing alternatives

The US division of Ben & Jerry’s employs a small team of ‘Flavor Gurus’ at its Burlington, Vermont. headquarters. Between five and eight self-described ‘foodies’ work together researching, developing and pitching new ice-cream flavors year-round. They source from magazines, blogs, social media, restaurants and trips to stay on top of flavor trends throughout the country.

With at least 54 flavors of its traditional pint ice cream currently in circulation, Ben & Jerry’s took a major step three years ago when it released its highly anticipated non-dairy line.

Fans had been clamoring for Ben & Jerry’s to go vegan and had even started a petition on the topic about a year before the launch, according to Sarah Fidler, one of Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Gurus.

“We were looking to provide something to people who were our fans, but couldn’t actually eat our products. We’re always looking to make sure that for people who have allergies or intolerances, we can provide something for them to enjoy,”​ Fidler told DairyReporter.

The non-dairy line now has ten flavors after the recent launch of Peanut Butter Half Baked and Cinnamon Buns.

Healthy moves

The biggest indication of Ben & Jerry’s evolution has been the launch of Moo-phoria, its first light ice cream, in early 2018. This comes in response to the recent popularity of ‘health-conscious’ eating and drinking and interest in clean labels with natural ingredients.

Better-for-you ice cream has been a large part of the trend with brands like Halo Top becoming household names overnight. Emphasizing the calorie content on the packaging is just one way brands are reinventing the approach to dessert marketing, with Ben & Jerry’s hopping on board.

“[Moo-phoria] still delivers on chunks and swirls and indulgence that you expect from Ben & Jerry’s. We saw a need in the market for something that’s a little bit better for you. It still is the same ingredients that we use in our ice cream, just in different portions,”​ Fidler said.

However, Moo-phoria doesn’t quite get as low on the calorie count as other light ice creams do. Chocolate Milk & Cookies has the line’s least amount of calories with 140 per half-cup serving, of which there are four per pint. By comparison, Halo Top has several flavors with 70 calories per half-cup serving.

Moo-phoria launched with three flavors that are expected to hit shelves throughout 2018.

Keeping an ‘open mind’

In February 2017 Ben & Jerry’s debuted its biggest departure from traditional ice cream with Pint Slices. They are formulated to mimic what it would look like to cut a round slice of ice cream from the pints, coated in chocolate.

The development team initially tried to put them on a stick, but couldn’t get it to sit well with all the large chunks and swirls the brand is known for, according to Fidler. Instead, the individual wrapping is designed to act as a mess-free way to enjoy the slices.

Ben & Jerry’s now has seven flavors of Pint Slices after the recent introduction of The Tonight Dough, Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz! and Cherry Garcia, which Fidler estimated to be the most requested slice flavor since the launch.

The Flavor Gurus field a lot of consumer requests, and with each new product they try to deliver on what the public wants. Fidler revealed it “helps to try to keep an open mind and not say no to anything,”​ when brainstorming and researching with the team.

“In general, people are much more willing to try ‘exotic’ flavors [now],”​ she said.

“People are definitely a little bit more adventurous in seeking out some of that new, not quite known, not quite familiar item. But at the same time, there still is a desire for some nostalgia and some kind of comfort, over-the-top thing. We’re still seeing these big sundaes that are really ‘Instagram-able.’”

Related topics: Dairy Health Check, Ingredients, Ice Cream

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