Sunday, July 31, 2005

Women Leaders for the World.

No, I haven't been absent from blog writing after retracting my statements about Haagen Dazs because of embarrassment. On the contrary, I have invited Haagen Dazs to use me as their spokesperson. They haven't yet responded....

I've been absent because of the extraordinary opportunity to participate in the first ever twelve day residency program at Santa Clara University, Women Leaders For The World (WLW). Women from diverse places have come to participate -- Uganda, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States. Each participant came with a vision or to create a vision in a supportive environment, with the goal of making the world a better place. While many of the visions are focused on women or women and children, ultimately, each involves everyone, and empowers all to have a better life. Challenges women in developing countries face, and specifically Uzbekistan, are nearly unimaginable to those of us who live in more democratic environments. Their courage and determination is moving.

Initially my intention was to work on the International Tropical Farmers Network, still in its nascent state, but garnering a lot of enthusiasm with our core group. However, I realized that in order to focus time on the network it was first necessary for me to focus on growing our core business. By creating a very profitable business we can implement more of the projects that we hold dear and important to us.

I have set a goal to have our vanilla sugar into Starbucks by October. Rather than feeling daunted, I feel determined. While I certainly see this as doable, if for any reason Starbucks decides it isn't the right product for them (though I can't imagine why they wouldn't want it!), there are many other avenues we can explore.

We are also interested to get our products into more specialty food and natural food stores such as Whole Foods, as well as to provide our premium extracts and beans to more restaurants, ice cream stores and bakeries. If you who read my blog will point us in the direction of your favorite places to eat, small-to-mid-size ice cream producers, or bakeries, we'll be sure to follow your suggestions.

On Friday we visited Google in Mountain View. What an amazing place!! We were all impressed with their vision, their goals, their eco-friendly environment and beautiful facility. It was a community in the truest sense of the world. They even provide their employees with their meals for free! Well, yes, I do that too, but only for four, not for thousands. They have great desserts -- maybe they'll be our next big account.

The women and men who are facilitating the WLW cohort have impressive credentials and a strong presence in the business and academic communities. Our classes are varied, with some segments focused on leadership and vision, and others on ethics, cultural diversity, etc. For instance, Saturday was devoted to understanding cultural differences as a way to better interact within our global community.

Perhaps one of the most powerful tools has been to understand how the lenses through which we view our lives impact ourselves as well as our way of doing business or running organizations, or even relating to our friends and family. I went to the conference knowing that I would learn a lot but I had not known that the experience would be transformational. I look forward putting into motion what I have learned. Watch out world, I have big plans! I will write more about the WLW after we have completed the cohort.

On a sadder note, on July 20th my oncologist, Richard Shapiro, died quite suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 41 years old and had no history of heart disease. It has been a huge shock for his family, friends, patients, and for the community at large. He was funny, irreverent, compassionate and gave us a sense of hope. We all were his favorite patient. I feel blessed to have had him in my life and sad to let go of an extraordinary human being.

Friday, July 01, 2005


On June 24th I posted an article in this blog about Saving Pure Vanilla. I expressed concern that many premium ice cream manufacturers (and I specifically mentioned Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream) do not contain pure vanilla extract or flavor in their ice cream. I was also concerned about how ingredients are represented on the packaging. I requested that people write to Nestle Corporation asking that they comply with the FDA Standard of Identity and to put pure vanilla extract in their premium ice creams.

When I wrote these statements in my newsletter and web log, I honestly (but unfortunately) was not considering that this could possibly be harmful to the reputation of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc., to Nestle, or to Haagen-Dazs. It was based on information I received from a meeting at the Flavor and Extract Manufacturer’s Association (FEMA) and from the labeling I read on the Haagen-Dazs ice cream package. It was also based on my interpretation of the FDA Standard of Identity for premium vanilla ice creams. And finally, it included my concern about the vanilla producers worldwide and my interest in seeing increased use of pure vanilla in premium products.

On June 30th I received a letter from Mark LeHockey, Vice President and Counsel of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc. Mr. Le Hockey writes:

“First and foremost your statement that Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream contains synthetic vanillin is completely false. Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean contains only pure vanilla extract, supplied to Dreyer’s by one of the most reputable ingredients suppliers in this country. For the same reason, your statement that “Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream contains ‘no vanilla at all’ is false.

“From there, it unfortunately only gets worse. Based upon your misstatement that Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean contains no vanilla at all, your further assertions that Dreyer’s or Nestle are defying FDA regulations, using ‘fraudulent packaging, which is illegal’, and for the past few years ‘they’ve ignored the law’, are both false and presumptively malicious based upon the actual facts and your failure to ascertain the true facts before making such scurrilous charges.

“In fact, in addition to using only pure vanilla extract in its Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream, Dreyer’s has spent and continues to spend millions upon millions of dollars ensuring the highest quality of Haagen-Dazs ingredients and communicating those benefits to our customers. In this connection, the false statements and accusations contained in the June 24th web site do severe damage to our work and the reputation and goodwill of one of the most valuable brands in this country. Each passing day that these false statements and claims remain posted only exacerbates the problem.”

As a journalist, I attempt to report accurate information to readers. In fact, I did not contact Dreyer’s or Nestle in advance of publishing information on my web log or in the newsletter. I placed a call to Mr. Mark LeHockey on July 1st, but as I have not heard back from him, I can neither confirm nor deny that Haagen-Dazs ice cream contains pure vanilla extract. As a result, I will assume that Mr. LeHockey’s claim is accurate. I respectfully apologize for misinformation I may have provided regarding Haagen-Dazs premium ice cream and for any fraudulent or false statements I have made. I have removed the web log statements and am contacting all newsletter subscribers to apologize for inaccurate or misleading information.

As those of you who read my blog are fans of pure vanilla, I encourage you to enjoy premium ice creams containing pure vanilla and to continue to support vanilla producers by purchasing and using pure vanilla products.

Patricia Rain,
Vanilla Queen