People of Northwest Public Radio
Mon May 28, 2012
The Graveyard Of Shelved Ice Cream Flavors
Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 7:19 am
The first installment in Dead Stop, Morning Edition's summer road trip series about interesting gravesites in America.
When the Ben and Jerry's ice cream company kills a flavor, it's treated with respect — including a burial in the company's "Flavor Graveyard."
"I think we've got the best, and the not-best, up here," Sean Greenwood, Ben and Jerry's Grand Poobah of Publicity, says from the cemetery in Waterbury, Vt.
"Flavors like Wild Maine Blueberry. It's been decades since we made this flavor, but we used to have the trucks back up here with truckloads of blueberries," he says, "and everyone would pitch in and unload the blueberries, and make it while the blueberries were fresh."
In what may be a nod to the current zombie fad, Ben and Jerry's also offers customers a chance to make the case for resurrecting a favorite flavor.
But that doesn't mean every flavor should be brought back. In particular, Greenwood cites "the dreaded Sugar Plum" ice cream, a mix of plum and caramel that he says should remain six feet under.
Customers and employees alike feel pangs of sadness when their favorite flavors either fail to catch on or can't recover from hard times. For instance, a particular ingredient might become too costly, or a kitchen process might be too complicated to continue.
"You feel bad when the good ones just don't make it anymore," Greenwood says.
A prime example is Rainforest Crunch, Greenwood says. He recites an elegiac poem dedicated to the flavor:
"With aching heart and heavy sigh, we bid Rainforest Crunch goodbye; that nutty brittle from exotic places got sticky in between our braces. 1989-1996. It was a really, really good flavor."
Like most cemeteries, the Flavor Graveyard attracts its share of mourners and other visitors.
"It's not uncommon," Greenwood says. "You walk up to the graveyard here, and there'll be fans that are up here putting flowers next to a headstone, or down on one knee, kind of paying their respects."
To nominate your favorite gravesite, write a comment below, or use the hashtag #nprdeadstop on Twitter or Instagram.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And we hope you'll drive around with us this summer. We're beginning a new series with a trip to the cemetery.
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GREENE: MORNING EDITION's summer road trip this year takes us to graveyards around the U.S. All summer we'll be visiting unusual noteworthy or just plain intriguing places of eternal rest. We're calling it - wait for it - Dead Stop.
And we begin this morning in Waterbury, Vermont at the headquarters of Ben and Jerry's. That's where we found an ice cream cemetery, a flavor graveyard, as it were, that honors ice cream varieties that are made no more. We asked spokesman Sean Greenwood to give us a little taste.
SEAN GREENWOOD: I think we've got the best, and the not-best, up here. Flavors like Wild Maine Blueberry. It's been decades since we made this flavor, but we used to have the trucks back up here with truckloads of blueberries, and everyone would pitch in and unload the blueberries and make it while the blueberries were fresh. And just great flavor like that. And then there were flavors like the dreaded Sugar Plum ice cream, which is the gravestone just to my immediate left.
GREENE: Now, why do you say dreaded? Why was Sugar Plum dreaded?
GREENWOOD: It just wasn't any good.
GREENE: Sugar Plum failed an important test. It didn't taste good.
GREENWOOD: Yeah. It was a plum ice cream with a caramel swirl, and I remember eating it fresh. It was not good. It was just not one that kind of pleased the pallet in any way.
GREENE: OK. So we've established that Ben and Jerry's actually has a graveyard that you're standing in. I mean, is it spooky? Is it pretty? Is it peaceful?
GREENWOOD: There's definitely a peaceful part of it. There's kind of birds chirping around as the rain's kind of gently falling on the hills up here in Vermont. So that's a nice peace. But there's also that part, you know, for both myself and a lot of our fans that you're a little bit sad when you lose your favorite flavor.
We have some great ones like Rainforest Crunch up here that was, you know, an excellent flavor. You feel bad when the good ones just don't make it anymore.
GREENE: I understand that there's an inscription on these gravestones, that each - kind of remembering...
GREENWOOD: Yeah, we try to, you know, allow our fans a chance to say goodbye. So the Rainforest Crunch, it says with aching heart and heavy sigh we bid Rainforest Crunch goodbye. That nutty brittle from exotic places got sticky in between our braces.
GREENWOOD: 1989 to 1996 - it was a really, really good flavor.
GREENE: A little too sticky though?
GREENWOOD: It was sticky, and there was a lot of challenges with that flavor. And that's - you know, we don't pull flavors out if they're doing real well. But when they have a challenging situation, whether it's not moving off the shelves, the fans don't like it anymore, or it's really hard to make, that's when it goes to the graveyard.
GREENE: Tell me where you're standing now. Is there another gravestone that you can take a look at and read the inscription for us?
GREENWOOD: Definitely. We have a - you know, one of the popular ones, it was kind of a quirky flavor, is Bovinity Divinity.
GREENE: Oh, I've never heard of that.
GREENWOOD: Way over there. Yeah, that one had chocolate cows and little - chocolate pieces shaped like cows. So lots of cow love, of course, up here in Vermont.
GREENE: Bovinity Divinity.
GREENWOOD: Bovinity Divinity, and so the headstone reads: Where do all the cows go when heaven gives the word? This flavor kicked the bucket when angels took the herd.
GREENE: Do you have, like, a little service or something when you bury one of these flavors?
GREENWOOD: You know, we've had some services before. It's not uncommon - you walk up to the graveyard here and there'll be fans that are up here putting flowers next to a headstone or down on one knee kind of paying their respects. So...
GREENE: You're kidding me.
GREENWOOD: You know, whatever is necessary to recognize it, we try to do that.
GREENE: Well, thank you so much for your time. It's been very interesting.
GREENWOOD: We appreciate it, as always.
GREENE: Sean Greenwood speaking to us from Ben and Jerry's Flavor Graveyard in Waterbury, Vermont.
If you have a story about an unusual cemetery, we want to hear about it. You can help us build our roadmap at npr.org, where you can post a photo or story about a graveyard that you have discovered. You can also tweet, tumble, or instagram. Just tag your entries NPR Dead Stop. Come with us on this tour of graveyards here on NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.