Several days ago, as I was strolling through the aisles at my local Fairway Market, I got a craving for my favorite ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Scanning the freezer section, I noticed that Coffee Health Bar Crunch had been replaced by Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch. I wondered to myself what could have driven the company to make this change. After researching that Health Bars are a product of The Hershey Company, I immediately thought of the company’s controversial record pertaining to fair trade and exploitation of child labor. I immediately emailed Ben & Jerry’s to confirm my suspicions.

The following was their response…

Dear Andrew,

Ben & Jerry’s is in its final year to complete the transition of all of our ingredients to be Fairtrade Certified and use non-Genetically Modified Organisms (non-GMO) by 2014. Because of those commitments we will make slight revisions to a few flavors as the current chunks are simply not available as Fairtrade or non-GMO. Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch, and Everything But The are among these rare cases.

As Ben & Jerry’s has made these values led sourcing commitments, we have systematically approached our manufacturer partners to request Fairtrade, non-GMO ingredients. Unfortunately, we were informed that obtaining Heath bars under those guidelines would not be possible. The volume Ben & Jerry’s uses in those three flavors is not large enough to justify a revision to Heath’s recipe. Therefore, to act in accordance to our values, Ben & Jerry’s felt it was necessary to find another toffee candy bar. We’re proud that we’ve found a manufacturer who is able to supply a Fairtrade, non-GMO toffee piece – currently in use in our Bonnaroo’s Coffee Caramel Buzz flavor – that meets our quality and taste standards.

To accompany this positive shift towards more responsible sourcing, Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch will be renamed to Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch and Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch, respectively. Pints bearing the new name have already begun to show up on shelves.

I was quite encouraged to get an immediate response from Ben & Jerry’s see this well known brand is taking the lead on sustainability. It is an excellent example of how companies are attempting to work with their suppliers in order to ensure that supply chains are meeting philosophical goals. In this particular case, because Ben & Jerry’s was not large enough of a customer for Hershey’s to alter their practices, they had no choice but to find an alternative supplier. However, while losing Ben & Jerry’s as a customer may not signal impending doom on Hershey’s wholesale business, the fact that a group of small customers can eventually snowball into a very powerful collective calling for change should not be discounted.

This is also just another example of how decisions in favor of sustainability can add value to a company’s brand equity. In a very direct way consumers feel greater connection and loyalty to the products they buy when they know companies are actively promoting measures that are in the best interests of all stakeholders.

Sustainability is everywhere and touches all aspects of our lives. It is not something that is just limited to how companies run their businesses but is a philosophy that we can all embrace in the things we do each day… even when we’re just buying our favorite ice cream.

Best wishes,

Andrew Friedman, CFP®
AJF Financial Services, Inc.
708 Third Ave., Suite 2011
New York, NY 10017

212-686-4590 (fax)

Securities offered through American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (APFS) Member FINRA/SIPC. AJF Financial Services, Inc. is not affiliated with APFS.

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