Public dishes out support for Ben & Jerry’s

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT: The counterculture attitude for which Ben & Jerry’s is renowned was alive and well late last month when several of the company’s franchisees continued their efforts to preserve Ben & Jerry’s independent status.

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT: The counterculture attitude for which Ben & Jerry’s is renowned was alive and well late last month when several of the company’s franchisees continued their efforts to preserve Ben & Jerry’s independent status.

SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT: The counterculture attitude for which Ben &

Jerry’s is renowned was alive and well late last month when several of

the company’s franchisees continued their efforts to preserve Ben &

Jerry’s independent status.



The campaign’s most recent flurry of activity was a series of

’Independence Day’ rallies at Ben & Jerry scoop shops across the

country. While inclement weather forced the cancellation of events in

Washington, DC and Baltimore, campaigners turned out in San Francisco,

Boston, New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Montreal and Boulder,

CO.



In San Francisco, hippie icon Wavy Gravy lent his support by playing the

banjo and singing ’protest’ songs (’We shall not be mooed’ and ’Ben &

Jerry had a farm’). In Boston, the rally drew several people dressed up

as sharks to represent a potential corporate takeover, while the crowd

chanted ’Save the cow now’ and ’Multi-flavor, not multinational.’ The

rallies gained the attention of CNN, NPR and The New York Times.



According to Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia and

a co-organizer of the events, the purpose of the demonstrations was to

show support for Ben & Jerry board members who may be leaning towards a

decision to preserve the company’s independence. In addition, she said

that rally organizers wanted to highlight the community’s deep ties to

the Ben & Jerry’s brand.



’We want the board of directors to consider employees, customers, the

community, suppliers, the natural environment and the common good when

they make their decision,’ said Wicks. Potential buyers for the company

include Unilever NV and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream (PRWeek, Dec. 20,

1999).



Franchisees also asked customers to send postcards encouraging Ben &

Jerry’s board of directors to keep the company independent. In exchange

for a signed postcard, many shop owners gave customers a free ice cream

cone. According to Wicks, nearly all of Ben & Jerry’s 200 franchises are

participating in the postcard campaign. Lori Johnston, a Ben & Jerry

franchisee in Washington, DC, estimates that thousands of cards have

been gathered.



While Johnston wasn’t sure when the board would reach a decision

regarding the company’s future, she said that Ben & Jerry stock saw four

times its usual trading volume in the days around the rallies,

indicating that a decision may come soon. She added that 90-95% of the

company’s franchisees do not want the company to sell.



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