Phish & Ben & Jerry’s. One of the more unique & successful partnerships.
“I feel like Ben & Jerry’s has been incredibly lucky to be connected with Phish. The band and their music and their fans and everything they stand for is right up our alley. It’s a great association” — Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry’s co-owner/co-founder)
Phish Food is the quintessential Ben & Jerry’s partnership. First and foremost, it is a LEGEND-DAIRY flavor: chocolate ice cream with marshmallow and caramel swirls. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? Then you throw in the chocolate phishes and it sends you over the edge.
What Phish Food Means to Ben & Jerry’s:
It’s a living, breathing partnership. Launching the flavor in 1997 was just the beginning. Since then we’ve worked on so many projects — outside of selling our own products — to try to make a difference in the world. Like any relationship — you’ve gotta be impressed that there’s still so much interest and love 20+ years later.
Coming Together in 1997:
It was a very exciting time for us. Phish Food was a brainchild of Ben, and the last official flavor Ben created while he was still doing innovation if memory serves correct. Ben was neighbors with the guys and the idea seemed perfect: both Vermont entities. Both got their mojo in the late 80’s and blossomed. Both cared about more than just making money. As the idea and collaboration was going on between the band and Ben & Jerry’s we were still finalizing the look of the pint. We had to do sales samples and we ended up using the old-fashioned ice cream maker character with a mask and snorkel on while wearing a Fishman type outfit. We ended up using that image on a brown paper carton for sales samples. When it came time to talk about the big unveil there was nothing else that would fit the bill better than a concert. But the band was so much bigger at the time and they hadn’t played locally for a few years. So, the show announcement had to be TOP SECRET. All of the B&J’s folks involved with the planning were chomping at the bit to tell their families and pals about the big news. The day that tickets went on sale for the Flynn show, phans came out of nowhere to build a huge line down Main Street. And it wasn’t just the fans; everyone at Ben & Jerry’s was so stoked about working together and what was to come.
The guys were very involved and remain involved today. Of course on both sides — it has taken much more than the band and the two ice cream guys to make it all happen, so the respective teams get a lot of the credit, too. And it makes sense — the impact of the relationship has been exponential so more folks need to be part of the equation. Still, whether it’s working with the band for voting rights at a festival or having one of the guys support an effort — like the 15th anniversary Cowbell event we held in downtown Burlington with Jon Fishman, it’s all been good.
The Secret Ingredient:
Great partners who care about more than just making money is a HUGE secret ingredient in Phish and B&J’s success. A band that continues to reinvent its music and stay relevant to an ever-growing fan base is a big part of it, too. And it is still one the best Ben & Jerry’s flavors in the top 10!
Most Memorable Phish Food Moments:
The original concert at the Flynn set the stage for the relationship with highlights including Ben and Jerry bringing the crowd to a frenzy, Cinnamon Girl, and other Vermont musicians sitting in with the band. Everyone entering the show got to try the flavor and full pints of Phish Food were handed out to fortunate fans. There have been so many other great moments over the years, it’s not fair to diminish the others, HOWEVER a very cool block party on the flavor’s 15th anniversary in 2012 where a few thousand fans flooded the upper block of Church Street in front of B&J’s flag ship store participating in what was dubbed the “World’s Largest Cowbell Ensemble.” It was quirky, fun and festive while helping raise $25K for flood relief in the Green Mountain state recovering from Tropical Storm Irene. It’s exactly what the partnership has been about. The truth is that as much as we enjoy being able to partner with the Phish, we are also, quite simply… fans. And so, on the 20th anniversary we listed a comprehensive list of our favorite Phish moments which you can review, comment on and add your own memories to.
The Impact — WaterWheel:
The band members all agreed to funnel their royalties from Phish Food towards environmental causes. They were particularly interested in cleaning up Lake Champlain, the 125 mile long lake on the border of Vermont, New York, and the Canadian province of Quebec. To make sure their dollars were used most effectively they decided to create their own foundation in 1997, WaterWheel.
The WaterWheel Foundation’s primary mission became the clean up of the Lake Champlain watershed from years of pollution. Wastewater systems, less-than-ideal agricultural practices, and runoff associated with sprawl were greatly damaging the beauty and health of the prized and important community resource.
“WaterWheel has really been in it for the long-haul — at a level that allows us to be change agents. We are at the most positive moment that I’ve seen in 25 years of working on Lake Champlain.” — Chris Kilian, VP/Director, Conservation Law Foundation of Vermont
“It really is about everybody in the community giving a little bit that turns into something that is fairly substantial that came make a difference. And that’s very cool.” — Phish General Manager, Beth Montouri Rowles,
Check out the impacts of the last 20 years of WaterWheel here:
To support the good work of the WaterWheel Foundation, just pick up a pint of Phish Food at your local store!
Merchandise can be purchased on the road and via Phish Dry Goods
Donations to WaterWheel help support over 500 non-profits in the cities Phish plays.
The Next 20:
Times have changed since we first launched Cherry Garcia 30 years ago. Back then we touted it as “America’s First Rock & Roll Ice Cream”! Today, there are lots of partnerships, endorsements, sponsorships and more. The unique position of what we’ve done together is that it has been a bit revolution, a bit evolution and there’s already a few decades under our belts. Both entities have grown, gone through significant changes, and still stay true to the values and principles we set sail with 20 years ago. It’s been a fantastic voyage, and the cool thing? There’s still more goodness to come.
We plan to keep on keepin’ on with the band going on tour to talk up important issues like voting rights, and of course the environment. And who knows what’s next? As long as the band keeps playing we’ll keep finding innovative ways to bring peace, love, music and ice cream to the masses.
Will there be anything taking place to honor the anniversary? Stay tuned…
~Ben & Jerry’s
“Step outside, feel the sun. It’s only you, be you ‘cause you’re the only one.”
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In collaboration with/produced by Jeff Gorra