“I scream, you scream, we all scream ….” — Johnson, Moll, and King

August 24, 2009

ice-cream-15It was an everyday experience in the newsrooms I once worked in to receive mail addressed to folks who no longer worked there — who, in some cases, had not worked there in decades and who, in other cases, were already partakers in glory. This phenomenon, which I presume occurs in other kinds of business offices, was a function of both the turnover in our shop and the failure of other organizations to update their mailing lists.

The oddest incident of the kind occurred in the 1960s when our newsroom was in Perth Amboy. A package arrived from a food company, addressed to an editor who had left the newspaper before I arrived. The package, sent by a marketing flak at the company, contained a half gallon of blueberry ice cream packed in dry ice. There was a note in which the flak apologized to the editor because it had taken so long “to get around to this” — which raised issues both about the ethics of the editor and the efficiency of the flak. Both issues seemed moot, so we gave the ice cream to the newsroom librarian, who was about to leave for home and was expecting company.

ice_cream_cone_from_stewartsKeeping the product cold is, of course, an expensive burden on the ice cream industry but one that, until now, seemed unavoidable. According to The Times of London, however, at least one company isn’t willing to accept what appears to be obvious. Unilever, owner of the Ben & Jerry brand among others, is trying to develop an ice cream that will be sold at room temperature. The consumer will take the stuff home and freeze it. This ostensibly is Unilever’s attempt to be more environmentally responsible — a goal it has already addressed by improving the energy efficiency of its plants and by upgrading the refrigeration units it supplies to its retailers. Manufacturing and delivering a frozen product results in significant carbon emissions, the company says, and those emissions would be significantly reduced if the ice cream were, well, not really ice cream until it reaches the customer’s kitchen.

imagesThe first question this idea is likely to raise in the mind of a consumer is, “Is this stuff still going to be ice cream?” I’m not sure a statement by a Unilever spokesman is reassuring: “The key question which has yet to be fully answered is: how do you ensure that, when the ambient ice cream is frozen at home it will have the right microstructure to produce a fantastic consumer experience?” Ambient ice cream? Microstructure? Hand me my pitchfork, Gert, there’s gonna be a fight.

The Times story is at this link: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/consumer_goods/article6807139.ece

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