BEN AND JERRY'S: The Inside Scoop by Fred Lager

BEN AND JERRY'S: The Inside Scoop

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An insider's engagingly informal history of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., a Vermont-based enterprise known for its scrumptious ice cream, profitable growth, and idiosyncratic brand of socioeconomic responsibility. Lager starts with a once-over-lightly version of how two childhood pals, Ben Cohen (a Colgate dropout) and Jerry Greenfield (an Oberlin grad who couldn't gain admission to med school), joined forces to open an ice cream parlor in an abandoned gas station in Burlington, Vt., in the spring of 1978. Against the odds, their venture prospered, and in 1982 the countercultural founders persuaded the author (an MBA who then owned a local nightclub) to give them a hand. He stayed until 1990, retiring as CEO in his 30s while remaining on call as a consultant and member of the publicly held company's board of directors. Despite its lucrative niche in the super-premium sector of the ice-cream market, enviable income statements, and attention-grabbing promotional campaigns that have helped make the corporate name recognizable on Wall Street as well as in New Age circles, Ben & Jerry's was by no means an overnight success. Initially, Lager makes clear, expansion capital was hard to come by; in addition, the fledgling firm had to compete with the formidable likes of Pillsbury (HÄagen-Dazs) and Kraft (Frusen GlÄdjÉ). While the entrepreneurial principals earned a well-deserved reputation for hang-loose management, they worked long and hard to gain acceptance in mainstream retail outlets. Nor, by the author's authoritative account, was the company's high-profile commitment to a two-part bottom line (which measures not only financial results but also the degree to which concern for the community figures in business decisions) reached without often acrimonious debate. A diverting take on a flourishing concern that, if not precisely a commercial paradigm, does its own thing with considerable style and gusto.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Crown