Ben Cohen (businessman)

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Ben Cohen
Ben Cohen.jpg
Ben Cohen in 2010
Bennett Cohen

(1951-03-18) March 18, 1951 (age 69)
EducationColgate University (BA)
OccupationFood company founder
Known forCo-founder with Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerrys, former company CEO

Bennett Cohen (born March 18, 1951) is an American businessman, activist, and philanthropist. He is a co-founder of the ice cream company Ben & Jerry's.[1]

Early life[edit]

Cohen was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in the town of Merrick, New York, on Long Island by Jewish parents Frances and Irving. He spent at least one summer at Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp in New Milford, Connecticut.[2] Cohen first met and befriended his future business partner Jerry Greenfield in a seventh grade gym class in 1963.[3] They continued on to Sanford H. Calhoun High School.[4] In his senior year, Cohen found work as an ice cream man before leaving to attend Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.[1]

Over the next decade, Cohen pursued his interest in pottery and dropped out of college after his sophomore year.[5] He also worked as a McDonald's cashier, Pinkerton guard, deliverer of pottery wheels, mop-boy at Jamesway and Friendly's, assistant superintendent, ER clerk, and taxi driver, before settling on work as a craft teacher at a private school for emotionally-disturbed adolescents. While teaching at the Highland Community School, Cohen began experimenting with making his own ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's[edit]

Cohen in 2012 with business partner Jerry Greenfield

In 1977, Cohen decided to go into business with his old friend Jerry Greenfield, and in May of the next year, the two men opened Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream Parlor in Burlington, Vermont. They initially intended to start a bagel business, but found the equipment costs prohibitive and switched to ice cream instead. They chose Burlington as a location because it was a prominent college town which, at the time, had no ice cream shop. Ben & Jerry's distinctive style of ice cream was developed to compensate for Cohen's anosmia, as he kept adding larger and larger chunks to the ice cream to satisfy his need for texture in food.[6] Ben & Jerry's became popular in Burlington.[7] Their main competion was two other ice cream companies, Dreyers and Haagen Daaz.

Cohen resigned as Chief Executive Officer of Ben & Jerry's in 1996.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Social activism[edit]

Cohen speaking at the Bernie Sanders Navy Pier presidential rally, March 2019

As Ben & Jerry's gradually grew into a nationwide business and one of the largest ice cream companies in the U.S., Cohen turned his new-found wealth and prominence toward a variety of social causes, generally through the Ben & Jerry's Foundation. The Foundation receives 7.5% of all Ben & Jerry's pre-tax profits and distributes funds to organizations such as the Anti Displacement Project. Cohen also oversaw TrueMajority and Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities.[9]

He is a vocal supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes. He supported Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 Democratic Party presidential primaries. In 2008, he initially supported John Edwards followed by Barack Obama. Cohen became a prominent supporter of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[10][11][12] Cohen debuted a special ice cream flavor called "Bernie's Yearning" on January 25, 2016 out of support for Sanders. Ben & Jerry's released a statement disavowing connection or support for the product, saying "This was created by Ben as a citizen. The company is not involved.”[13]

In 2012, he helped launch the Stamp Stampede campaign to stamp messages on the nation's currency in support of passing a constitutional amendment to help overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and reduce the influence of private corporations on politics.

On April 18, 2016, Cohen was arrested, with Jerry Greenfield, while at a Democracy Awakening protest in Washington, D.C.[14][15]

Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign[edit]

On February 21, 2019, Cohen was named a national co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign.[16]


  • Cohen was honored by the New York Open Center in 2000 for his "leadership in pioneering socially responsible business."[17]
  • Cohen was a US Small Business Person of the Year in 1988.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Ben Cohen -- Co-Founder Of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream". Archived from the original on 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
  2. ^ "Buck's Rock Testimonials". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  3. ^ Bernstein, James. "Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield". Newsday. Newsday, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-01-27. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  4. ^ Garcia, Andrew (September 20, 2018). "Calhoun grads Ben and Jerry return to Long Island". Herald Life. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Calhoun grads Ben and Jerry return to Long Island". Herald Community Newspapers. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  6. ^ Zierah, Elizabeth (2008-07-08). "The Nose That Never Knows: The miseries of losing one's sense of smell". Slate. Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
  7. ^ "Ben and Jerry's". Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. Archived from the original on 8 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
  8. ^ Carlin, Peter (February 5, 1995). "Pure Profit - For Small Companies That Stress Social Values as Much as the Bottom Line, Growing Up Hasn't Been an Easy Task. Just Ask Ben & Jerry's, Patagonia and Starbucks". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "True Majority: Who We Are". Archived from the original on 2008-07-08. Retrieved 2008-07-11.
  10. ^ "Ben Cohen Endorses Kucinich for President". 2003-06-20. Archived from the original on 2003-08-10. Retrieved 2016-04-19.
  11. ^ "Bernie Sanders Lands a Sweet Endorsement From Ben & Jerry's Co-Founder - ABC News". 2015-08-03. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  12. ^ Isenstadt, Alex (2008-02-09). "Ben Cohen endorses Obama". Retrieved 2008-07-11.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Ben & Jerry's founder unveils new 'Bernie's Yearning' ice cream flavor". POLITICO. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  14. ^ Maloney, Lauren. "Ice Cream's Ben & Jerry Arrested". MYCHAMPLAINVALLEY.
  15. ^ "Ben & Jerry's Co-Founders Arrested During Protest :".
  16. ^ Perticone, Joe (2019-02-21). "Bernie Sanders announces new national co-chairs: Our Revolution President and former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, Rep. Ro Khanna, San Juan Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen". @JoePerticone. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  17. ^ "Explore. Fulfill. Transform". Open Center. Retrieved 2016-03-31.

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