Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend.
Twenty years ago, scoopers at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops – acting on an anonymous tip from a fan – posed this classic question: what if they put cookie dough into ice cream? It was a revolutionary idea in the world of ice cream at that time, and one that would become one of Ben & Jerry’s best-loved flavors.
Peter Lind, a longtime Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Guru, worked to develop the flavor. “Everybody wanted to roll in the Dough! But we just couldn’t make it fast enough because the process of making it was so labor intensive,” Lind says.
Today the company's Chunk Feeder machinery helps put big chunks into lots of different flavors, but back then, the standard machines couldn’t handle the raw gobs of dough. “We would buy the cookie dough in these huge blocks and take out these big knives and throw the chunks in at the last minute. Yes, every batch of Cookie Dough ice cream was hand made in a batch freezer,” he says.
Lind knew that there must be an easier way to produce the ice cream. He contacted Rhino Foods, another progressive, local Vermont business that produced cheesecake, baked goods, and other mix-ins for frozen desserts. Ted Castle, the owner, was a former All-American hockey player at the University of Vermont. “We started thinking, what if we make the gobs tiny like little pucks and slapshot ‘em in?,” Lind says. Their idea, plus a few secret techniques, combined with a committed effort from the production crew led to success at the Chunk Feeder. On March 20th, 1991 Ben & Jerry’s rolled the first pints of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream off the line. It was the first time that Cookie Dough was able to be produced quickly and in large quantities.
“It took us months to figure out the entire process, but it was worth it,” Lind says. “Nowadays we explain the process we use to make the flavor to someone and they say, ‘well that makes sense,’ but at the time we really didn’t know! It was unchartered territory.”
Two decades later, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is still a fan favorite. It is one of only three flavors to be featured in pints, quarts, mini cups, and in scoop shops and ranks among the top performing flavors every year.