In 1994, a British journalist triggered the Ben & Jerry’s addiction in the UK by writing, “If Haagen-Dazs is the ice cream you have after sex, then Ben & Jerry’s is the ice cream you have instead of sex.” Fast-forward to present day; With 11 non-dairy flavors filled to the brim with decadent chunks and swirls, let’s just say I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. While still a dairy-based company, Ben & Jerry’s is churning out more non-dairy options in an effort to offset the company’s carbon footprint (54 percent of which come from its dairy suppliers). VegNews was recently offered an exclusive and fantastically immersive experience at the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters and factory in Vermont. After meeting the flavor gurus, touring the office, and sliding down the gigantic slide (yes, it’s a thing), I found this cow-country company to be refreshingly vegan-friendly.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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1. All dogs are welcome
While the tour of the ice cream factory fulfilled our wildest of childhood dreams, I was equally giddy during the office dog tour. Companion animals make up a good portion of the staff at the Burlington, VT headquarters, and all offices and cubicles are equipped with puppy gates. Two connecting cubicles, home to French bulldogs Spock and Pontch, actually have a doggie door so these two snorty pals can visit each other whenever they please. In addition to these adorably friendly Frenchies, I also met Hazel, Otis, Angus, Jax, Bindi, and a host of other four-legged “K9-to-5ers.” Not only does a dog-friendly office add to the morale of its human employees, it also fosters a sense of responsible companion animal parenting. No dog should be left at home alone for extended periods of time. This progressive policy allows for office workers to adopt and care for an animal without worrying about neglecting them or paying top dollar for a regular dog walker. It’s a win for everyone.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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2. Jerry’s daughter-in-law is vegan
While sampling passed plant-based hors d’oeuvres during the networking event, Jerry introduced himself and praised the vegan lifestyle. While not vegan (yet), he informed us that his daughter-in-law is, and he has enjoyed many a plant-based meal cooked by her. He’s also sampled the plethora of vegan eats in and around Burlington. Let’s hope he continues down this plant-based path … and takes Ben along with him!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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3. Jerry eats the whole (non-dairy) pint
As eager guests sat down to a multi-course vegan family-style feast at Hotel Vermont, we went around the table and named our favorite non-dairy flavor. Upon Jerry’s turn, he unabashedly exclaimed that when he eats ice cream, he eats the whole pint! His favorite non-dairy flavor? Caramel Almond Brittle.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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4. Employees get three pints a day
Every single staff member in the colossal maze that is the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters is allowed to take home up to three pints per day! I’d definitely take advantage of that work perk and gift non-dairy ice cream to all of my friends and family. What better way to spread the vegan word than with free premium ice cream?

 

 
 
 
 
 
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5. Not all sorbets are vegan
Warning: although the new Pucker Upper sorbet may sound enticing on a hot summer day, vegans should steer clear. This sweet-yet-tart raspberry lemon flavor contains dairy. However, the Berry Berry Extraordinary and the Lemonade sorbets are vegan-approved.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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6. Why we haven’t seen non-dairy phish food
According to the flavor gurus I spoke with while developing my own non-dairy ice cream in the test kitchen, the number-one request they’ve received for the non-dairy line is for Phish Food. It’s the second most-requested flavor following the immense demand for non-dairy cookie dough (which has been perfected and “pinted”—thank you!). The challenge they face comes from the fact that the company outsources its mix-ins; only the ice cream bases, chocolate chunks, and swirls are made in-house. The flavor gurus have the non-dairy chocolate ice cream, chocolate phish chunks, and vegan caramel swirls down, but the gooey marshmallow swirls present the roadblock since they have to find a company to supply it. While there are many vegan marshmallow makers, most are small and cannot keep up with the high demand of this international ice cream company. To all the vegan marshmallow companies out there: please, rev up production and get in touch with Ben or Jerry.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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7. Be on the lookout for non-dairy CBD
CBD is a growing market, and Ben & Jerry’s is ready to dive in … they just need the lifeguard (aka the FDA) to blow the whistle. While smaller food companies can get away with infusing their products with CBD, my hosts informed us that the substance is still not legally recognized by the FDA, and as a national brand, they have to wait for this government agency to declare it safe before proceeding with anxiety-relieving pints. When asked if we can expect non-dairy versions of CBD flavors, the flavor gurus suggested that it is a definite possibility.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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8. Non-dairy ice cream will save the world
Combating climate change is one of the company’s global initiatives. The ambitious goal is to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent per pint by 2025 and 80 percent per pint by 2050, and it is relying on the growth of its non-dairy options to accomplish this mission. While the current non-dairy flavors only make up eight to nine percent of its total US sales, Ben & Jerry’s expects to see this number increase with the release of more vegan-friendly products. Rob Michalak, Director of Social Impact, said, “Climate change is a real deal and we all have to take action as companies, individuals, and communities, so providing plant-based products is definitely a viable solution.” I’ll certainly be eating more vegan ice cream for the sake of the planet.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sun’s out, buns out. Find it at the link in our bio!

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9. There literally is a flavor graveyard—but the non-dairy pints are alive and well
Outside the Waterbury factory and past the playground you’ll find the Flavor Graveyard—home to retired flavors of Ben & Jerry’s past. Each deceased flavor has its own tombstone and a short punny epithet. While I never tasted them, we pay our respects to flavors such as White Russian, What a Cluster, Economic Crunch, Vermonty Python, Miz Jelena’s Sweet Potato Pie, and Tennessee Mud. While sad, I couldn’t help but hide my relief that none of the non-dairy flavors were buried six feet under. Long live non-dairy! One request, though: please reincarnate Vermonty Python as a non-dairy pint. Thank you, flavor gods!

 

Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.

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