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Is high-fructose corn syrup, artificial vanilla and alkalized cocoa "natural"? Not so much. So why would Ben & Jerry’s label its ice cream and frozen yogurt as “All Natural”? Gasp.

There’s no doubt the Ben & Jerry’s brand stands for environmental consciousness and social responsibility. These attributes have been inherent in the brand since Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield first launched the business, selling homemade ice cream out of a cart in Burlington, Vermont.

However, a short time ago, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, received a letter from the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, DC citing 50 products that were mislabeled. In short, they claimed to be “all natural,” but were found wanting, according to a recent Washington Post article.

What to do? Re-label, of course. Company spokesman Jostein Solheim said, “We are confident that Ben & Jerry’s products are ‘All Natural’ as reasonable consumers would understand that term. However, we don’t want there to be any questions.”

There’s some truth to his statement. The overwhelming majority of ingredients in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and frozen yogurt products are clean, natural and wholesome. The main ingredient, milk, is sourced from family farms that don’t use growth hormones. Eggs come from certified free roaming hens. There are no added colors, artificial flavors or synthetics.

Still, a handful of ingredients are not purely natural. Even though they come from natural sources, they are processed. As the Washington Post article states: “Technically, Ben & Jerry’s is not prohibited from using the term all-natural. The Food and Drug Administration does not have a definition for the term”. But that doesn’t matter. Savvy consumers know the difference. And many of them really care about this.

Glad to see Ben & Jerry’s is taking the high road on this one and eliminating the “All Natural” descriptor on any ice cream and frozen yogurt product that have processed ingredients in them. It’s the right thing to do, regardless the individual consumer’s definition of the word “natural.”

Questions:
• What do you think of Ben & Jerry’s response? Appropriate, or a little late in coming for an environmentally conscious company?
• Does this move restore your faith in the brand or does it make you wonder whether there might be other inaccuracies in its corporate statements?
• Would you prefer to see other companies “come clean” if there are any issues that might create confusion in consumers or muddy the brand’s attributes?
• How important is honesty, authenticity and transparency in branding?

I’d love to hear from you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.