Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s Brain-Freeze No More

Unilever building | Image by Exploringlife/Wikimedia

Unilever announced Tuesday that it has decided to spin off its ice cream division into a separate company.

The company said that it will spin off its ice cream companies, which include Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Magnum, Popsicle, and Klondike. The company announced the move as part of an effort to cut costs and improve stock values, which declined over recent years. The company reported that the move will save about €800 million ($872 million) over the next three years.

“The Unilever Board is confident that the future growth potential of Ice Cream will be better delivered under a different ownership structure,” Unilever said in a press release. “Ice Cream has distinct characteristics compared with Unilever’s other operating businesses. These include a supply chain and point of sale that support frozen goods, a different channel landscape, more seasonality, and greater capital intensity.”

The move also enables the company to fully separate from the controversial stances taken by Ben & Jerry’s, reported Fox Business.

In 2021, Ben & Jerry’s faced backlash from investors after announcing a plan to boycott sales of its products to Israelis in the West Bank, which the company referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

In response, Unilever sold Ben & Jerry’s locations in Israel in June 2022, but the damage was already done. Texas, along with half a dozen other states, divested public stock holdings from the company. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hager placed Unilever on the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) list of companies. Unilever rejected that the company supports the BDS movement.

The company caused controversy again on July 4, 2023, when it took issue with the origins of the United States.

“This 4th of July, it’s high time we recognize that the U.S. exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it,” the company posted on X.

Newsweek reported shortly after the post that Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Band of The Coosuk Abenaki Nation, would be interested in talking with Ben & Jerry’s, whose headquarters are on land previously occupied by the Abenaki Nation. Stevens told Newsweek that he had not received a response from Ben & Jerry’s.

Unilever did not mention recent controversies involving the Burlington, Vermont-based company as a determining factor for the decision to exit the ice cream business.

The announcement of the divestment immediately had a positive impact on Unilever stock values, which jumped 5% after the announcement was made. The ice cream division was valued at $8.5 billion in 2023. It is unclear how the divestment by Unilever will ultimately impact Ben & Jerry’s, but Unilever said the change will happen by the end of 2025.

“Ben & Jerry’s has been owned by Unilever for the last 24 years, and this represents a significant change for us,” Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement, as reported by Vermont Business Magazine. “However, regardless of any new ownership structure, Ben & Jerry’s remains committed to advancing our three-part mission and is well positioned to continue to grow our global company.”

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