In the fight of high-end grocery store ice creams there are really only two players. Ben & Jerry's, with its pun-named flavors and hippy packaging, and Häagen-Dazs, with its gold-colored leafing and Germanic umlauts.
They don't just represent different ends of the packaging spectrum. Due in part to founder Ben Cohen's inability to taste or smell, Ben & Jerry's put large chunks of mix-ins (Cohen likes the mouth-feel) and would experiment with putting three or four different flavors into one pint. Häagen-Dazs keeps its ice cream simple, with two flavors maximum but mostly plain ice creams and lots of sorbets. Just look at each company's top seller. Häagen-Dazs' is vanilla, Ben & Jerry's is Cherry Garcia.
Recently, the fight has taken a turn.
It started in January. After a year of high dairy and gas prices,
both companies' profits were squeezed. To compensate, Häagen-Dazs
quietly shrunk the size of its pints from an actual 16-ounce pint to a
smaller 14 ounces. Naturally, fans
noticed. So Häagen-Dazs released this statement:
offset increasing costs, we did not consider reducing the quality of
our ingredients or the care we take in making your ice cream, sorbet,
and frozen yogurt. We opted instead to slightly reduce some of our
carton sizes...This was a difficult decision. But we hope you'll agree
that our promise to never sacrifice the quality of our ice cream -- what
we put in as well as what we leave out -- is what the Häagen-Dazs brand
is all about. The carton may have changed slightly, but your
Häagen-Dazs ice cream has not. You can count on that.
though its biggest competitor was down, Ben & Jerry's didn't kick
it or change any of its advertising to say something like,
"still normal sized!" It stayed quiet, which made some fans worry that Ben & Jerry's was going to do the same thing, economic crunch style.
Yesterday, though, Ben & Jerry's assured fans it was staying the same and finally went on the attack. On a Web page headlined "A pint's not a pint unless it's a pint," the company wrote this:
of our competitors (think funny sounding European name) recently
announced they will be downsizing their pints from 16 to 14 ounces to
cover increased ingredient and manufacturing costs and help improve
their bottom line. At Ben & Jerry's we think downsizing pints is
downright wrong. We understand that in today's hard economic times
businesses are feeling the pinch. We also understand that many of you
are also feeling the same, and think now more than ever you deserve
your full pint of ice cream... So, while our competitor may be
experiencing a bit of shrinkage, rest assured that your Ben &
Jerry's will still be standing tall in the freezer.
far, the company with the "funny sounding European name" has yet to respond.
Really though, what can Häagen-Dazs say? Its cartons are smaller and
Ben & Jerry's are not. The best thing is probably not to respond and hope it all blows over. Ben & Jerry's, on the other hand, is thinking of ways to exploit this. The flavor Häagen-Dumzs comes to mind.