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How Ben & Jerry’s Iced Early Rival to Survive

“How Ben & Jerry’s Iced Early Rival to Survive”

When ice cream entrepreneurs Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield first expanded beyond their Vermont home, they received a chilly reception.Haagen-Dazs, which owned the high-end category, threatened to withdraw its product from any supermarket distributor also offering Ben & Jerry’s.

Cohen and Greenfield realized that their larger rival could outlast them in an expensive legal battle, so they took their case to the public.

Bypassing Haagen-Dazs, they went after its parent, Pillsbury, with a campaign called “What’s the Dough-boy Afraid Of?” From stickers on ice cream containers to billboards and airplane banners, Ben & Jerry’s exhorted their customers to order a “Doughboy kit” containing form protest letters to Pillsbury’s chairman and the Federal Trade Commission. Ben & Jerry’s mailed 15,000 kits, and Pillsbury was flooded with complaints.

Cohen and Greenfield even brought their battle to Pillsbury’s doorstep by picketing in front of the corporation’s Minneapolis headquarters. Resulting media coverage from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal introduced Ben & Jerry’s to a nationwide audience. Pillsbury conceded defeat and withdrew its threat to distributors.

Source: “Ben & Jerry’s: The Inside Scoop,” by Fred Lager, Crown.