An Insider’s Look at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Slideshow
April 15, 2013
1) Ingredients make their way to the factory from all over the world, but the majority of them, including eggs and dairy, come from local Vermont farms.
The Base Mix
2) A "base mixture" of milk, cream, egg yolks, and all-natural stabilizers are combined in massive tanks. For chocolate ice cream, 300 pounds of cocoa powder is also added during this step.
3) The mixture is then heated to 180 degrees and then quickly cooled, resulting in a completely clean product with an even consistency.
The Tank Room
4) The mixture is cooled even further, down to 36 degrees, in tanks that can hold 1,000 gallons each. The base mix now has the consistency of a wet milkshake.
5) The mixture than heads to the Flavor Vats. This is the point where liquid flavorings are added, including vanilla from Madagascar and coffee from Mexico.
6) The mixture then gets another freeze, bringing it down to 22 degrees.
7) The ice cream in-process heads over to the Chunk Feeder. Now’s the point at which the "chunks," such as nuts, cherries, and chocolate-covered pretzels (or in this case, fudge-covered potato chip clusters), are added into the mix.
8) The mixture then heads to the Swirl Feeder. This top-secret process is the real Ben & Jerry’s "secret sauce," and took years of trial and error to perfect. Caramel, fudge, peanut butter, and all the other "swirls" are added in here, evenly distributed throughout the mix.
9) Now the mixture finally heads into the pint containers, via the Automatic Filler. This machine can fill, cap, and flip 150 pints per minute, and requires two workers to keep a constant eye on things to make sure that everything is going smoothly. One is continuously adding containers and lids into the feeders, and the other watches as the now-filled pints pass through what they call a "Good Karma Machine," which is essentially a metal detector that makes sure no metal fragments snuck their way in. At this point the ice cream looks like a thick milkshake, which everyone who works for the company will tell you is ice cream at its most delicious.
Inside the Spiral Hardener
It's cold in there, and not just because it's kept at -30 degrees. If you think you can handle a trip into the spiral hardener, you might want to think again: It’s also windy, and the wind chill reaches -70 degrees.
The final step before being shipped off to a store near you is the Bubbler, where eight pints are wrapped in plastic. Pro tip: Shops can order Ben & Jerry’s one 'bubble' at a time, so if there’s a flavor that they don’t stock, just ask. If they’re in a good mood, they just might order you some.