Many brands of ice cream have pieces of candy, brownies, fruit, cookie dough, or other sweet treats mixed in, but Ben & Jerry's ice cream, in particular, has become known for sizable chunks in almost every bite.
According to a popular rumor, the reason for that signature texture was this: A founder of Ben & Jerry's, Ben Cohen, has a rare condition that affects his sense of smell and taste. So, while developing types of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, he preferred big, chunky ingredients that made flavors stand out to him.
According to a Reddit post, for example, "Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's has anosmia and has no sense of smell and a reduced sense of taste. This is why Ben and Jerry's ice cream has more large, chunky ingredients."
This was true. According to a 2018 post on the company's official website, titled, "10 Fun Facts About Our Funky Chunks," Cohen's condition inspired the company's signature chunky style. The site stated:
Blame Ben For Our Chunk Obsession
Co-founder Ben Cohen has no sense of smell and very little sense of taste. So when he was developing our earliest ice cream flavors, he loved the texture of the big chunks. Fans loved it too, and it's since become our signature style.
According to a 2021 interview with Cohen and Delish, a food magazine, he has a rare sinus condition called anosmia that severely limits his sense of taste and smell. As a result, he said he enjoys ice cream based on its texture, which means he distinguishes different flavors based on their varying types and sizes of candy or fruit additions. In the interview, Cohen said:
Ice cream, to me, is about texture. It's the sensation of it melting in your mouth, the smooth creaminess. With regular [non-Ben & Jerry's] ice cream, I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference in the flavors.
When Jerry and I first started creating the flavors [in the 1970s], he'd give me something to taste. He'd say, "Well, how do you like it?" I said, "It's good. But I can't tell what flavor it is." So he would just keep on adding more flavoring until I could guess.
Anosmia, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a complete loss of smell that impacts a patient's ability to taste:
If you lose your sense of smell, you'll miss more than a variety of scents. Without a good sense of smell, you may find that food tastes bland and it's hard to tell different foods apart. Loss of smell can be partial (hyposmia) or complete (anosmia), and may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.
Even a partial loss of smell could cause you to lose interest in eating, which in extreme cases, might lead to weight loss, poor nutrition or even depression. Some people add more salt to bland foods, which can be a problem if you have high blood pressure or kidney disease. Your sense of smell is also crucial for warning you of potential dangers such as smoke or spoiled food.
Given that the company and Cohen himself confirmed his condition, and the Ben & Jerry's website said Cohen's love for big chunks helped the company develop its signature style, we rate this claim as "True."