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What's The Story Behind Phish Food?

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 The opportunity for Phish to help Lake Champlaign arose in 1995 when Ben and Jerry's™ approached the band and proposed an ice cream flavor called "Phish Food". They were excited by the prospect. After much discussion and even more tasting of flavors, the band signed off on the concept and the eponymous ice cream was born. The band decided that they would donate all royalties due to Phish from the venture to assisting Lake Champlaign. In addition, Ben and Jerry's™ agreed to donate a percentage of their profits from sales of Phish Food™ merchandise. The band members have always believed in the adage, "Think Globally, Act Locally" and this was the perfect opportunity to implemenet it. Clean water is an issue vital to every human being; of major importance on the local front, but also resontating on the national level. The band decided to donate all profits due to Phish from "Phish Food"™, toward the clean-up of Lake Champlain. The foundation hopes that others are inspired to make a contribution to similar issues in their own communities.

The flavor: The 2/24/97 hotline message (posted to rec.music.phish that day) said, "On February 20th, Ben & Jerry's™ launched Phish Food™ ice cream (chocolate with caramel and marshmallow swirls, and [inch-long chocolate] fudge fish). All of Phish's share of the proceeds from this flavor will be donated to environmental work to restore Lake Champlain." From the Associated Press 2/21/97, (from a press release), "Move over Cherry Garcia; Phish Food™ is here. On Thursday, Ben & Jerry+s Homemade ice cream unveiled Phish Food™, a nod to the Vermont band Phish, which, like the Grateful Dead, has a huge following among the tie-dyed, granola-eating set. ... 'This is chocolate and marshmallow the way it was meant to be,' Cohen said. Cherry Garcia, named for the late Grateful Dead bandleader Jerry Garcia, has been in the grocer's freezer for years. Phish, whose music is often compared to the Grateful Dead, had its flavor in stores Thursday. Will it outsell its predecessor? Invoking lyrics to a Phish song, Cohen said, 'If anyone doesn't think this flavor is marshmallowy enough, I'll start bouncing around the room!" The band reportedly tasted Phish Food™ for the phirst time in Texas during the Fall of 1995. A review of Phish Food (soon to be moved.) According to the July 2000 Spin (p.113), Phish Food is "current the third most popular flavor in the country."

The origin: Phish Food "was conceived by a man named Theodore "Tad" Van Leer. He worked for the family=owend chocolate company Van Leer Chocolate Inc., who supplied Ben and Jerry with their chocolate. It was originally called Moby Dick and had alternate ingredients. B&J saw the potential for another music-based [sic] ice cream similar to Cherry Garcia," according to Rob Selover, who emailed 11/24/98.

The concert: The 2/20/97 Allstar Daily News reported, " The Vermont natives will hold a benefit concert March 18 at the 1,400- seat Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield making an onstage appearance, as they've done before. ... Phish Food is in stores as of today (Feb. 20). According to Lee Holden of Ben & Jerry's, there are no plans at the moment for another music-inspired flavor. 'We did this one because there's a special relationship between us,' he says. [Ben and Jerry also appeared at the Clifford Ball.] 'We're neighbors and we love Phish, and they love the ice cream.'"

The game: Ben & Jerry's™ web site even has a Phishwave Game associated with the ice cream (and the carton design on the container) which involves swimming Henrietta (in dress and scuba gear) across the screen, against a stream of sharks and fish, to try to open the treasure chest. The game -- which features a soundclip of Fishman playing drums as background -- requires that you have Shockwave installed in your Web browser, but only needs to load 120K onto your machine for you to play, so go for it and be a bit patient. (Thanks to Rik Dryfoos !)

The shirt: When Phish Food debuted, there was a fair bit of in-store marketing by B&J -- posters, cups, flyers, and t-shirts. Most of the promo stuff has of course moved on, replaced by other new flavors. (Tried Southern Pecan Pie yet?) The t-shirts were reportedly dropped for production costs, but a new one is due soon (Ex-scooper Hank ).

In January 2002, B&J announced the Dave Matthews Band-inspired One Sweet Whirled.


"Most of the songs that I write are pretty lighthearted, which represents an opinion that I hold that people are too serious most of the time....." -- Trey Anastasio, in his thesis

"Fasting is seen largely as some New Agey nouveau-liberal sacrilegious gibberish only undertaken by dreadlocked nudists and Phish fans and people with dolphin windchimes and names like Starhorse and Moonshadow and Tim."
-- Mark Morford, 5/1/02


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