I need to declare an interest. I am a Ben & Jerry’s fan. That said, the brand’s collaboration with Tony’s to address the inequalities of chocolate sourcing and specifically slave labour is, I think, objectively brilliant.
About a year ago I listened to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s recommendations for the “great food redesign” which called upon the biggest manufacturers to rethink the ingredients they use and how they are produced. Alongside the need for a more collaborative approach with farmers, the foundation advocated the development of ‘iconic products’ to demonstrate the potential of planet and society positive design. It was a recognition that change will be iterative and that growing the availability of exemplar products could support a competitive catalyst for mainstream change.
Ben & Jerry’s collaboration to improve the welfare of cocoa farmers is a great example of this demonstration of future positive potential. In fact, I could argue it is an iconic product from an iconic partnership. Let me explain…
A positive step change made salient for consumers
The collaboration to end modern slavery in cocoa farming has been made deliciously tangible with the launch of a new Ben & Jerry’s “chocolately love affair” flavour. A sourcing commitment that could have remained recessive within a supply chain supports a new flavour choice. Tony’s in addition are now able to amplify their mission with the news of the first ice cream company to source traceable cocoa via their Open Chain network. Again, the availability of two new Tony’s Chocolonely’s bars with Ben & Jerry’s flavours makes progress visible.
This saliency and tangibility of positive change is more important than ever. With consumers currently squeezed by inflation and increasingly price conscious the welfare of those involved in creating a product is a consideration that needs a prompt.
A model for visible and sustained progress
The endorsing and scaling of a partner’s transparent supply network is a sensible model for the iterative improvement needed by big businesses to improve our global food system. Such a model also promotes the more transparent and more involved dynamic needed with producers to improve their prosperity and so farming practices.
Already a brand that introduces exciting new flavours, Ben & Jerry’s has the opportunity to announce and celebrate a succession of more “thoughtful” ingredients as they make the long journey to a shared prosperity supply chain.