How Stephen Colbert’s Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavor Gives Back
The flavor—a mix of vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cones and a caramel swirl—was first conceived back in 2007 during the early rise of Colbert’s faux pundit character on his series The Colbert Report. The Vermont-based ice cream maker—which has done special collaborations with the likes of Willie Nelson, Elton John, John Lennon, Bob Marley’s estate, and even fellow late night host Jimmy Fallon—sought out a partnership with the then Comedy Central star after witnessing his early (and rapidly growing) appeal. According to Ben & Jerry’s Grand Poobah of Public Relations Sean Greenwood, Colbert’s messages, approach to humor and edu-tainment format spoke to the company, making him an ideal choice for flavor inspiration.
"Now you can enjoy me internally as well as externally,” Colbert said of the flavor’s release in 2007.
With a tongue-in-cheek name inspired by the comedian’s popular political persona, the flavor combination sought to embody Colbert’s character. Whether that was the man or the persona, however, was slightly unclear.
“When we first started designing the flavor, we would come up with a concept and run it by Stephen and then get some feedback,” Greenwood told Food & Wine. “At the time he was doing The Colbert Report, we said, ‘This has fudge-coated waffle cone pieces,’ and he said, ‘Uh oh, my character would never waffle, it would be a disconnect.’”
“The flavor was not with The Colbert Report, per se, even though we've had a great relationship with his Comedy Central show and the people that work there,” Greenwood continued. “It was Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream, not The Colbert Report's Americone Dream.” Greenwood acknowledges that with time and Colbert’s shifting image, it has become a better fit.
General associations between the flavor and its subject are changing due to the comedian’s new gig as the host of CBS’s The Late Show. There, he’s taken off the character and opted for a more genuine version of himself. In the same way that people like inspired flavors that taste or feel like the real thing, they also like people that feel real and relatable.
In that way, it's somewhat noteworthy that a flavor has managed to grow with and more into embodying its inspiration. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s updated Colbert’s fellow late night host Jimmy Fallon’s flavor for his switch from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to The Tonight Show. But Colbert’s blend was kept the same through a more drastic move, proving it has not only become part of his brand but a means of illustrating the man behind the character.
“If you remember that gap when Colbert stopped at The Colbert Report, there was like six or seven months before he took over at The Late Show,” Greenwood said. “We [asked], ‘Do you want us to update that so it'll be ready as soon as your Colbert show is done?’ They got back and said, ‘No, we actually think your ice cream is one of the only places that people will be able to find Stephen over the next six months.’”
While there may be no plans for the ice cream blend to change, fans of the flavor’s Colbert Report-themed packaging should get ready for a new look in 2018. Evolving from its original red, white and blue, the new design for the Americone Dream containers will feature imagery of the late night host in his current role.
In the years following the sweet celebrity partnership’s launch, another thing has also changed for the better: its donation system. Since 2007, the flavor has donated over $2 million to various charity organizations focused on addressing everything from the environment to veterans affairs to children’s needs. Initially, only a single charity was selected by Colbert to be a recipient of his profits from the flavor’s sales, but as Colbert’s image has changed, so has the donation system.
Colbert is now turning to his staff, with members of The Late Show team encouraged to nominate non-profit organizations as recipients of the pint proceeds. As part of Colbert’s recognition of the donations, he annually reads a list of each year’s recipients during an episode. In a new 3-minute video, Ben & Jerry’s presents an inside look at how receiving organizations are selected and the ways the act of giving impacts both Colbert’s staff and their love for their work.
“It’s an incredible experience just to see the look on everyone’s face as Stephen talks about all of the different organizations that get helped just because people are buying ice cream,” Chris Licht, The Late Show’s executive producer and showrunner, said of the ice cream and charity collaboration.
The latest version of the Americone Dream packaging with the same great flavor will hit shelves in 2018.