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Ben & Jerry's Launches Vegan Ice Cream Line With 4 Non-Dairy Flavors

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Ben & Jerry's Launches Vegan Ice Cream Line With 4 Non-Dairy Flavors

Holy cow! Ben & Jerry's has introduced its first-ever line of certified vegan ice cream made with almond milk. The Vermont-based ice cream makers now have four non-dairy creations called Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chunky Monkey, Coffee Caramel Fudge and P.B. & Cookies that will hit the shelves later this month.

"You dared us to go dairyless—and we did!" company boasts. "Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy flavor creations are made with almond milk and so boldly loaded with chunks and swirls that you’ll get Ben & Jerry’s euphoria in every bite."

The move comes after a concerted effort to not just satisfy the lactose-intolerant crowd, but environmentally conscious ice cream lovers, too. According to TIME, "these non-dairy creations have been two-and-a-half years in the making and are partly a response to a 2014 Change.org petition that racked up more than 28,000 signatures, including one from the current U.S. Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker."

The authors of the petition wrote:

For many, Ben & Jerry’s sets the ice cream agenda. They are in a position to lead the way and make non-dairy ice cream a mainstream choice, like meatless Mondays. Offering an ice cream for their vegan customers would signal their support for cutting back on animal products. There is now a scientific consensus that animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to global warming, outstripping even the transportation industry in its production of greenhouse gases. Moreover, offering a non-animal product line of ice cream would signal to their customers that such alternatives can be mainstream and don't mean sacrificing great flavor and their favorite brands, and that they don't have to be vegan to enjoy them.

As for the taste, the folks at Huffington Post did a taste test and were surprised at how some of the flavors were incredibly creamy despite being nondairy. Of the Coffee Caramel Fudge, they said: "This baffling creation tasted and felt like it was full of milk and dairy and all the creamiest creations. The coffee extract and caramel swirls balanced really well with the almond milk."

In terms of nutrition, TIME reported that the vegan versions of Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Chunky Monkey only saves about 40-50 calories. It appears that Ben & Jerry’s created the line to stoke the non-dairy sweet tooth, not to kill extra calories.

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“As much as Ben & Jerry’s customers say, ‘We want something healthy,’ the dollar really speaks,” Kirsten Schimoler, principal food scientist for Ben and Jerry’s, told TIME. She focused on making the chunks taste as “indulgent” as possible.

“That’s what Ben and Jerry’s is really known for," she added. "You want to sit on your couch with a pint of ice cream and dig out those huge pieces of cookies and chase the peanut butter swirls.”

Still, even if these treats won't be so great for your waistline, there are known benefits of a vegan diet—where there are no animal products, such as eggs, butter, milk and cheese allowed. A Western-style diet rich in meat and dairy produce will lead to an 80 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from agriculture, according to Tim Redford of the Climate News Network.

A 2014 research paper from UK think tank Chatham House, Livestock—Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector, explained why it may be necessary for a lot more people to go vegetarian or at least dial down their consumption of meat and dairy products. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, the study said, account for about 14.5 percent of the global total, more than direct emissions from the transportation sector and more than all the emissions produced by the U.S., the world’s biggest economy.

Dairy alone is a major driver of environmental stress. The World Wildlife Fund pointed out that the global approximation of 270 million dairy cows and their manure produce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change and places pressure on natural resources, including freshwater and soil.

"Poor handling of manure and fertilizers can degrade local water resources. And unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as prairies, wetlands and forests," the organization said.

Ben & Jerry’s has made a clear commitment to a healthier climate future. For instance, the company only uses cage-free eggs, sources fair-trade ingredients, has banned genetically modified organisms (GMO) ingredients by origin and supports mandatory labeling of GMOs. The certified B Corporation uses ingredients including milk and cream from family farmers who do not treat their cows with the synthetic hormone rBGH.

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In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

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With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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