NAPLES — Schweddy Balls tastes good. Whether Schweddy Balls is in good taste is another question.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream chain scooped up a bit of controversy recently when it introduced a new ice cream flavor, “Schweddy Balls.” The concoction is named after a skit from “Saturday Night Live” in which Alec Baldwin, as entrepreneur Pete Schweddy touted the culinary creations — popcorn balls, cheese balls, rum balls — of his company “Season’s Eatin’s” for holiday gifts. The skit, built around a fictitious cooking show, is filled with sexual double entendres, and Baldwin’s highly touted “Schweddy Balls” were its major joke.
Picking up on its popularity, Ben & Jerry’s created Schweddy Balls, the ice cream. Schweddy Balls rolled along under the radar until a group called One Million Moms, affiliated with the American Family Association, issued a statement deploring it.
“The vulgar new flavor has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive,” said a blast from the group, urging supporters to email Ben & Jerry’s and threaten a boycott.
Schweddy Balls has sold well, and attracted a lot of attention, at the local Ben & Jerry’s at Venetian Village in Naples, said manager Eric Weiner. The flavor, he said, is being offered as a “test batch,” one of a half dozen the company distributes each year for a limited time.
“A lot of different people are trying it, and we haven’t had any complaints,” Weiner said.
When a group of tourists strolling by the store saw the decal announcing Schweddy Balls on the glass door of Ben & Jerry’s in Venetian Village, they cracked up.
“That’s awesome,” said Michael Tyrrell, visiting from Fort Lauderdale.
“I wouldn’t know what that tastes like,” said his friend, Peter, who didn’t give a last name. “That’s just nuts.” With that, he headed into the store to try a spoonful, while his friends took photos of the sign.
The flavor itself contains, says the menu at Ben & Jerry’s, “vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum, loaded with fudge- covered rum and malt balls.” It’s among several TV show-themed flavors the company has produced. There are Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream, with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and caramel swirl, and even Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack, with chocolate-covered potato chips.
Calls to Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry’s public relations manager at headquarters in Burlington, Vt., were not returned, although Weiner said the PR representative had more than 500 emails to deal with on that very topic. Greenwood’s voicemail jumped right into the Schweddy Balls issue, starting off with “season’s eatin’s,” and saying the company was delighted to partner with SNL.
The Ben & Jerry’s website says “the classic Saturday Night Live sketch packed with racy double entendres is now a Ben & Jerry’s flavor packed with … ‘legendairy’ ingredients and quality balls.”
The flavor got a minor boost on Saturday when Baldwin again hosted “Saturday Night Live” and offered an alternative flavor for the complainers: “Go Fudge Yourself.”
Schweddy Balls appears to represent the classic marketing strategy of getting attention by being a little bit outrageous, and the company is making the most of it. Even the display on the cash register at the Naples store reads, “Schweddy Balls — As seen on SNL!”
“We didn’t come up with the name. It was ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ skit,” Weiner said. “No one can control how someone interprets a name — trust me, from growing up with the last name Weiner.”