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Ben & Jerry's refuses to change ice cream name of Hazed and Confused despite outcry

Ben & Jerry's found nothing in its marketing

Ben & Jerry's found nothing in its marketing for the chocolate and hazelnut flavor that “condoned hazing, supported hazing, or even inferred hazing,” said Sean Greenwood, a spokesman for the South Burlington, Vermont-based company, which is owned by Unilever NV. Photo Credit: benjerry.com

Ben & Jerry’s won’t rename its Hazed & Confused ice cream, defying anti-hazing activists who complained the moniker was insensitive to victims of some dangerous college traditions.

The company found nothing in its marketing for the chocolate and hazelnut flavor that “condoned hazing, supported hazing, or even inferred hazing,” said Sean Greenwood, a spokesman for the South Burlington, Vermont-based company, which is owned by Unilever NV.  Executives also took into account that Internet responses were mostly favorable, he said.

“It didn’t make sense for us to change the name,” Greenwood said. “We named it because it’s a pop culture reference.”

The name of the flavor, which includes fudge chips and a hazelnut fudge core, was a play on “dazed and confused,” the company has said. That phrase was made famous by a Led Zeppelin song and a 1993 coming-of-age film comedy.

The ice cream had been on the market six months without an objection before Lianne and Brian Kowiak of Tampa, Florida, and their allies spoke up. Their 19-year old son, Harrison Kowiak, died of a head injury in 2008 during a fraternity hazing ritual at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina. The Kowiaks sued for wrongful death and won an out-of-court settlement. Harrison Kowiak was a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fan.

“The company completely avoided and didn’t take into consideration what are the unintentional implications of this chosen name,” Brian Kowiak said in an interview following a call he had Thursday with officials at Ben & Jerry’s.

‘Shocked’

The Kowiaks noticed an advertisement for the ice cream and sent an email to Ben & Jerry’s on Sept. 5. The flavor had been in stores since February. Criticism also came from anti-hazing activist Hank Nuwer at Stophazing.org, who urged readers to contact Ben & Jerry’s.

“I just paused, and I was shocked and we were dismayed,” Lianne Kowiak said last month. “I was just upset about it.”

After the complaints, the company condemned hazing and later said it would consider changing the name. The company received 11 complaints, which were mostly emails, said Greenwood, the Ben & Jerry’s spokesman.

“The flavor Hazed & Confused and Ben & Jerry’s as a company in no way condone –- nor support in any manner –- the act of hazing or bullying,” the company said in a statement at the time. “Ben & Jerry’s believes that hazing and bullying have no place in our society.”

Ben & Jerry’s has gotten into trouble over its names before. Its shops in Boston apologized in 2012 for a handmade flavor called Linsanity -- named for Chinese-American basketball star Jeremy Lin -- that contained fortune-cookie pieces. Its Schweddy Balls flavor, which riffed on a risque “Saturday Night Live” skit, was protested by the group One Million Moms.

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