Ben & Jerry's flavor creators discuss staying innovative during a pandemic
The ice cream company practically doubled product development in 2020.
mm hmm. A flavor guru at Ben and jerry's is someone that developed new flavors in either pints, novelties or bulk format. We have a set of different skills. Um bo eric and Sarah have um culinary background and Sarah also has food science background as well as I do have food science background. We just kind of complement each other and bounce ideas off of each other and much better as a whole than we are individually March 2020. They told us we were possibly not coming back to work, which being R&D. We need to be in the office, we need to have access to machines, we need to have access to the factory. We need have to have access to our office so we can receive or our suppliers packages from March until june. We weren't allowed in the office at all. So we were receiving uh samples from our suppliers at home. Uh We were communicating with the factory via team trying to do as much as we could at home. You know, we did do some sampling and stuff at home, but it is really tricky because um, we have a lot of really great ingredients that we use it. You can't decide the grocery store. We learned a lot of new skills, We learned how to make ice cream in a small ice cream maker at home, we learned how to make mix at home. Normally we get mixed from our site, whipping our marshmallow in our kitchen aid. So it's just like, you know, you're just the one thing is that we were flexible. We were like, you know, we're not, we don't have access to our work. So let's just figure out once we started getting in, we all kind of started figuring out what do we need to do. You know, if I'm going to go in the office one day this week, what am I going to do and have it organized and I'm gonna grab all these ingredients, We have a dedicated freezer added to our lobby, um so that people can come in safely, um and get samples, all of the marketing people, the social mission people, everyone has a special been in the freezer and they go to the front desk and they just grab their stuff out of their band and they leave, The group has forms online for them to fill out as they're tasting. So we we normally go in his form, the feedback was hard, we're still trying to sort of figure that out. It's easier to have a conversation when you're sitting across from someone. Normally we go to our manufacturing sites whenever there's the first production or some sort of test, we couldn't do that this year. We did by Holland and we had our coordinator at the site where it and it's just like being um, in his head. So this is the Holland by Microsoft and it has a lens in the front, uh, that allows you or whoever the viewer is or the support person that I'm calling to see everything I'm seeing. Our factories would be using this and they would be calling someone like me in R and D. And asking for support or advice in the factory setting. When we make a new product, we do product cutting. It's really critical for the first production products to come here, R and D and the extended team. So marketing, uh, supply chain quality, et cetera. We all literally take the points, we flip them upside down. We got them first and half with giant cheese knife. Why we're doing that is because we want to get a view of the whole point from top to bottom of what it looks like, the architecture of that ice cream. So how this world distributed through the ice cream, how are the chunks? How do they look? Are they evenly throughout the whole point? And then we might cut that in quarters as well to make sure that every quarter of that point has something in it. So it's really important that the brownies or the pretzels, whatever they are, aren't all pushed off to one side, so we make sure that it tastes the way it should taste the brownies, taste the way they should. Um You know, everything kind of checks to how we designed it. Yeah. The intent of that product, I think our team was so productive in 2020. Um Because of our connection, we maintained our connection to each other in the team. We did uh we have a morning meeting every morning at 9 30 it's, the meeting is about us, it's not about work, it's not about business, it's about how are we doing our family's doing. Um and that kept us tight as a group think at a certain point we all kind of came to this realization that we're all going through a very unique situation and it's difficult for everyone. So you know, natalia and I and a few other team members have really young kids at home and that brings its own challenges. Eric is taking care of his mom, that brings its own challenges. You know, a few team members live alone and that's difficult and I think understanding y'all have really unique challenges and we can be there for each other. This whole thing has shaped everyone, like we all know how to be more collaborative. All of us have to be more flexible um innovation wise, I mean we're not planning to reinvent the wheel anytime soon. We one thing is that we knew from the beginning and we talked very closely to our ceo was like we need access to the office. There is something to be said about this whole like platforms that you're not truly getting the feedback right away. So I just want to I just want to see faces, I want to see you know like this is delicious like even though I know my team so well that even if they don't say that it's talks I know it's because I see their faces so like you need that you need that.