Ben & Jerry's have never been shy about making politics part of their brand. The ice cream makers have made social activism a mainstay of their company's brand in recent years, with stunts including the refusal to serve two scoops of the same ice cream flavour in Australia (in support of same-sex marriage) and unveiling an anti-Trump batch flavour called 'Pecan Resist' to 'lick injustice.' They've even found time to become involved in Britain's little local difficulties, berating Priti Patel last year for trying to stop migrants crossing the English Channel in boats.
Now though one of the company's stunts appears to have backfired spectacularly. In July the ice cream manufacturers declared that Ben & Jerry's would stop sales in the 'occupied Palestinian Territory' as 'we believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognised illegal occupation.' And who better to defend those values than Ben Cohen, appearing alongside his co-founder Jerry Greenfield in an Axios on HBO interview this weekend? Asked about his reasons for the boycott, the septuagenarian Sanders supporter could only flounder as to why the company he started continues to peddle its wares in Georgia and Texas despite attacking the abortion and voting rights laws in those two states.
Still, Cohen should not be too discouraged. It's hard to be consistent in a profit-making world – something Ben & Jerry's must know only too well. The company is owned by Unilever – the corporate behemoth which in 2016 was forced to settle with almost 600 workers in India after they were allegedly exposed to mercury in one of the company’s thermometer plants. It came two years after other allegations from a Dutch research centre that in 2014 the company’s Kenyan workers had been poorly housed with many experiencing sexual harassment. Unilever denies the allegations.
Should we now expect a new flavour for an a humble pie brand? Or perhaps Ben & Jerry’s should begin by putting its own house in order…