Reuben and Rose Mattus

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Reuben and Rose Mattus were American entrepreneurs who founded the Häagen-Dazs ice cream business.[1]


Rose Vesel Mattus (23 November 1916 – 28 November 2006, aged 90) was born in Manchester, Great Britain as Rose Vesel to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Poland. They made theatrical costumes and briefly moved to Belfast with a theatre company and emigrated to New York in 1921 when Rose was five years old.[1]

Reuben Mattus (1912 – 28 January 1994, aged 82) was born in Poland of Jewish parents. He arrived in New York with his widowed mother Lea at about the same time as Rose Vesel.[1] He started in the ice cream business as a child of 10, joining his uncle who was in the Italian lemon-ice business in Brooklyn, helping his mother squeeze lemons for the ices. By the late 1920s, the family began making ice pops, and by 1929 chocolate-covered ice-cream bars and sandwiches under the name Senator Frozen Products, selling them from a horse-drawn wagon in The Bronx.[2]

Rose and Reuben met in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York. After finishing high school, Rose went to work as a book-keeper at the Senator plant in 1934, and the two married in 1936.[3] Reuben consulted some books and started to make a new heavy kind of ice cream. In 1959, he decided to form a new ice cream company with a foreign sounding name. He invented the Danish sounding 'Häagen-Dazs' as a tribute to Denmark's exemplary treatment of its Jews during the Second World War,[2] adding a diaeresis which does not exist in Danish, and even put a map of Denmark on the carton.[1]

From its launch in 1961, the ice cream was made using cream and natural ingredients for the flavorings, in contrast with competing brands which used cheap, often artificial ingredients. It was high in butterfat and had less air, which, according to Rose Mattus' autobiography, was the result of a factory accident, when the air injection pump broke.[4] Reuben developed the flavors and Rose marketed the product.[1] Her first marketing ploy was to dress up elegantly – in keeping with the upmarket positioning of the brand – and give away free samples at local grocers.[5] Another part of her strategy was to market the brand to university students, and she made certain that ice cream parlors near New York University in Greenwich Village carried Häagen-Dazs. The brand, which grew only slowly through the 1960s, was at first distributed nationally by Greyhound Bus deliveries to college towns.[1] By 1973, it was sold throughout the United States, and in 1976 the first Häagen-Dazs store opened in Brooklyn.[6]

The business was sold to the Pillsbury Company in 1983 for $70 million. The Mattuses were kept on as consultants after the sale until Pillsbury was bought by Grand Metropolitan.[1] After this, they launched the Mattus Ice Cream Company in 1992, this time specializing in low-fat products, calling them Mattus' Lowfat Ice Cream.[7] Pillsbury and Häagen-Dazs are now owned by General Mills.[1]

Personal life and death[edit]

The Mattuses lived in Cresskill, New Jersey. Reuben Mattus died on January 28, 1994[8] and Rose Vesel Mattus died on November 28, 2006.[9] They were known as supporters of Israel, founding a school of high technology in Herzliya which bears their name,[9] and supporting the Israeli settlements.[6] They had two daughters: Doris Hurley and Natalie Salmore and five grandchildren.


Rose Vesel Mattus and Jeanette Friedman (2004). The Emperor of Ice Cream: The True Story of Häagen-Dazs. The Wordsmithy. ISBN 978-0974885704. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rose Mattus, 90, Co-Creator of Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream, Dies". The New York Times. December 1, 2006. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Joan Nathan (August 2, 2012). "Ice Cream’s Jewish Innovators". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ Stephen Miller (December 1, 2006). "Rose Mattus, 90, Co-Founder of Häagen-Dazs". The New York Sun. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  4. ^ Gaby Wenig (July 29, 2004). "The Real Scoop Behind Ice Cream". Jewish Journal. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  5. ^ Paul Levy (December 5, 2006). "Rose Mattus Co-founder of Häagen-Dazs". The Independent. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Naomi Zeveloff (July 1, 2011). "Frozen Friday: 'I'm Related to the Makers of Häagen-Dazs'". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  7. ^ Ruth Reichl (January 1, 1995). "Lives Well Lived: Reuben Mattus; The Vichyssoise Of Ice Cream". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  8. ^ Richard D. Lyons (January 29, 1994). "Reuben Mattus, 81, the Founder of Haagen-Dazs". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Michael Carlson (January 9, 2007). "Rose Mattus. The woman who sold Häagen-Dazs to America". The Guardian. Retrieved August 7, 2012.