Some may recall a series of Breyers ice cream commercials from the late 1990s, which featured children reading aloud the hard-to-pronounce ingredients on the label of a competitor. In comparison, the ads claimed, Breyers's ingredient list is short and straightforward: only milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. But even these things can be complicated—where does the milk come from? Is the vanilla fair trade?
On Wednesday, Breyers parent company Unilever will announce a major change that seeks to answer these questions: Going forward, Breyers will only source milk and cream free from artificial growth hormone. The vanilla it uses will be sustainably and ethically sourced from Madagascar.
"This need for more openness and transparency about what’s in a product is a much bigger trend," said Alessandra Bellini, vice president of brand development for Unilever. "Fast forward 15 years [after our ’90s transparency campaign], the trend is even stronger. People want to know that what they eat is very simple."
From here on out, dairy producers will have to sign an affidavit swearing that they do not treat their animals with artificial growth hormone. The vanilla must be Rainforest Alliance Certified, which means that it’s sustainably farmed according to rigorous standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network or the Forest Stewardship Council.
Other Unilever brands—including Fruttare, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum, and Popsicle—will follow suit over the next few years, making the conglomerate the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world to take up such an initiative. It’s worth noting, too, that Unilever is one of the world’s largest buyers of vanilla, according to the company.
"Everything is a journey," Bellini said, referring to industry transparency. Unilever plans to unveil an updated version of the classic ’90s ad campaign in the spring, she added. "We are determined on that journey, and we take one step each year."
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What do you think of Breyers’s change? Do you care where your ingredients come from?