Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ben and Jerry's (Part III)

Disclaimer: There was a LOT of info on this tour. I am trying to share it to the best of my memory, but my apologies to the folks at B&J's and to our readers if I have any errors. B&J's: I welcome any and all corrections!

Here's the third part of my Ben & Jerry's series, in a collection of I-don't-know-how-many-I'll-need. The previous two were kind of teasers, but here we dig (er, um, is it scoop?) right into day and a half themselves.

Shall I give you a tour?

We started our day off bright and early at the factory in Waterbury. Now I've written about the tour before, and I hadn't given it a glowing review. I can tell you a private tour with only seven people and a tour guide is much better than a crowded tour of twenty.* I can also tell you it feels pretty special to go through the "Employees Only" door at the end of the tour. But I digress. It seriously was a better tour when I could actually see what was going on down below and our tour guide was awesome. His name was Tim and he's one of the B&J's Tour Leads. (Hope for him when you have your tour!) He was so animated and clearly loves what he does. (He is not the only one at B&J's to seemingly love what he does.) But to avoid repetition, visit my previous post for the gist of the tour.

Just a freezer full of "new stuff"
displayed at the end of the tour.
The tour ended in the flavor room with a taste of Mint Chocolate Chip. I don't know if I have ever had B&J's Mint Chocolate Chip and I wasn't disappointed. I did feel badly for our friend Lindsay of The Stir at Cafe Mom. Just the night before she was telling us that she hated mint ice cream.

As many tours so smartly end, this one too popped us right out at the gift shop, which was brimming with anything and everything B&J. (Since my last post about the tour, the gift shop is now back up online.)

Quality, "fresh off the line"...

You aren't reading this post for the tour, or the flavor room, or the gift shop. You are reading this because you haven't been behing that "Employees Only" door. Well behind that door, there's a conference room that we all squeezed into to meet Laure and Nate, from Quality Assurance and Manufacturing, respectively.

Laure and Nate clearly love what they do. They talked about their time at B&J's with such passion. Laure has been with B&J's for 17 years! Nate said he's one of the newer employees on the team, with 10 years (!) under his belt -- somewhere he'd never thought he'd be ten years ago, as he amusingly recounted the first time his friend introduced him to B&J's ice cream and he said "It looks like two hippies on the container. How good can it be?!"

Laure and Nate talked about how it's the people that make their jobs so great (another recurring theme!) and a lot about do-gooding with B&J's. While Nate seems to enjoy his work at the company, he just seemed to glow when he talked about giving back to the community with B&J's. He told us about the eight hours day once a year that each employee donates to the community -- on company time. He spoke with such passion about the the variety of ways he volunteers and how that now he volunteers his own time. I loved the little tidbit of how the manufacturing plant donated freezer space to the Greater Vermont Food Bank when donations poured into the food bank after Hurricane Irene. (Check back next time for more touching stories about the goodness of these employees in relation to the hurricane.)

And then came this contraption (at right). Laure showed us how she checks the pints using this super cool contraption that someone in the company made specially for Quality Assurance so she doesn't have to cut the carton every time she quarters it to see the inside of a pint. Talk about tiring. Laure checks pints every hour during her shift, I believe. She looks to make sure all of our chunks are evenly distributed and that there are plenty of chunks and swirls and that nothing looks "off."

We took then took pints of B&J's and compared them to pints of an undisclosed brand. We all agreed that the B&J's looked better and tasted better. Creamier. Maybe it was because we weren't being given a private tour by the undisclosed brand, but...truth be told? I rarely ever buy the undisclosed brand, so biased I may be, but it was well before that day!

Fresh off the line

Many, many people at B&J's told us that the best ice cream is "fresh off the line." Fresh off the line ice cream is perfectly tempered. (Tempering means letting it soften at room temperature a bit so that the flavors come out more.)

As I am an ice cream addict and don't have the patience, I rarely temper my B&J's, unless it's forced upon me by the ride home from the store. (When I was growing up, my sisters and I had to put the groceries away when my mom got home from the store. On days she bought ice cream, we'd each grab a spoon and dig into the perfectly softened-from-the-store-to-home ice cream.)

They were making pistachio the day we were there, so we were each handed our own pint of "fresh off the line" Pistachio Pistachio. This fresh off the line ice cream was amazing. Perfectly soft and creamy, the flavor just melted onto your tongue (no pun intended). My heart broke when I left my half eaten carton of ice cream on the table, knowing it would be thrown out (what a waste of such amazingness) but I knew I also needed to leave room for the rest of the day. It was only 11 o'clock in the morning. There was much more to come.

We ended our time at the plant with a trip to the Flavor Graveyard, and I was sad to see a couple of flavors I had never gotten to try, one of them being "Oh Pear." Oh dear.

Meet me back at Scoopalicious in a couple of days for our lunch with the "new" CEO of B&J's followed by some time at ScoopU.

*In retrospect of my previous post about the tour, I don't know how B&J's can make the tour better for people. For one, it's just too crowded, but they have such a tour demand and only so much time in the day, it just might not be feasible. And I had been a bit critical of the "eight" steps, but if that's all the steps there are, they can't add more just for the public's viewing. Maybe the truth was exactly as I said it in the previous post:
Sometimes I act just like a kid: I get so excited for something that when it finally happens, I am a little bit disappointed. That happened on Friday. Seeing as I love to see how things are made and I love ice cream, I had hyped up the Ben and Jerry's tour so much in my head and when we finally went on it, it just wasn't as wonderful as I expected.
And maybe it's because I have heard a lot of old timers say that the "old" tour used to be better. And maybe it was. And maybe they had fewer fans clamoring for tours. Things change. Adjustments have to be made. Perhaps the tour would be better if the ice cream weren't so popular. But it is. And that's good news for B&J's. Maybe not such good news for their millions of fans.

One tour tip for B&J's? Two options of ice cream at the end of the tour. Then maybe our poor friend Lindsay wouldn't be so disappointed at the end!

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails