The Meltdown of Ben & Jerry’s: When Virtue Signalling Trumps Business Sense

By The Malketeer

In a move that comes as a relief for many, Unilever, the British consumer goods giant, has decided to abandon its super-premium ice cream business, including the iconic brand Ben & Jerry’s.

This decision not only promises to save Unilever a whopping USD800 million over the next three years but also frees the company from the burden of constantly defending the wacky and often controversial behaviour of Ben & Jerry’s independent board.

Ben & Jerry’s, once known for its delectable ice cream flavours and quirky marketing, has increasingly become a political megaphone, alienating customers with its relentless pursuit of wokery and virtue signalling.

From advocating for defunding the police to promoting unrealistic socialist policies, the brand has seemingly forgotten that its primary purpose is to make ice cream, not lecture people on how to live their lives.

The brand’s board, led by Anuradha Mittal, who also runs the left-leaning Oakland Institute, has repeatedly demonstrated a reckless disregard for the interests of Unilever’s shareholders.

Ben & Jerry’s has waded into geopolitics and social issues with all the subtlety of bubble gum-flavoured ice cream, souring relationships and emboldening adversaries.

One of the brand’s most baffling and hypocritical stances is its opposition to palm oil, an industry that has been a cornerstone of Malaysia’s economy.

Ben & Jerry’s decries palm oil as an environmental villain, ignoring the fact that even the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes sustainable palm oil production can actually benefit the planet.

Instead of engaging constructively with the issue and supporting sustainable practices, the ice cream brand has opted for sensationalism and grandstanding, furthering its reputation as a purveyor of empty gestures.
This approach is both disingenuous and intellectually dishonest, as it fails to acknowledge the efforts made by the Malaysian government and palm oil corporations to reduce deforestation and operate under “No Deforestation, Peat and Exploitation (NDPE)” commitments.

Moreover, as Hannah Ritchie, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data, points out in her book “Not The End of the World,” cutting out palm oil will lead to it being replaced with other oils that have lower yields and require significantly more land, ultimately exacerbating the very environmental issues Ben & Jerry’s claims to care about.

In the end, consumers crave ice cream, not politics. And they prize truth over hyperbole. By putting its social justice crusades ahead of the bottom line and prioritising virtue signalling over serving its customers, Ben & Jerry’s has transformed from an iconic brand into a cautionary tale of what happens when a company loses sight of its core purpose.

Unilever’s decision to divest from the ice cream business, while primarily driven by financial considerations, also represents a blessing in disguise.

It frees the company from the burden of constantly justifying and defending the brand’s misguided and often counterproductive actions, allowing it to refocus on its core business objectives and stakeholder interests.

As Ben & Jerry’s embarks on a new chapter as an independent entity, it would do well to remember that customers seek indulgence and enjoyment, not political indoctrination, from their ice cream.

By abandoning its relentless pursuit of wokery and embracing a more balanced and constructive approach, the brand may yet reclaim its former glory and relevance in an increasingly competitive and discerning market.

Note: The above article is a summarised version of an article by Brian Monteith , a former member of the Scottish and European parliaments and editor of The aerticle was published in Focus Malaysia.

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