Warwick Ice Cream owner Jerry Bucci Jr. is the third generation in a family business founded in 1930. He hopes one of his sons will one day run the company.
But that’s an idea that became a bit more distant recently due to what he describes as a sudden and unexpected cut-off of the supply of popular treats including Ben & Jerry’s, Good Humor ice-cream-on-a-stick and Choco Tacos from the global consumer-goods company Unilever.
Bucci says he’s had a working relationship with Unilever for 30 years, and Warwick Ice Cream has been the authorized distributor of Unilever ice cream products in Rhode Island.
“We built the reputation for Good Humor here in Rhode Island. We’ve had contracts with Unilever for freezers,” Bucci said last week. “About half my business is Unilever products.”
Unilever, however, in a Feb. 4 email to Providence Business News, says it has never had a formal agreement with Warwick Ice Cream.
“Warwick Ice Cream was not the sole distributor in Rhode Island,” company spokesman Jeffrey Graubard said. “Warwick Ice Cream has been a sub-distributor of another Unilever distributor in Southern New England for multiple years.” Graubard said Warwick Ice Cream was a sub-distributor for Dari Farms.
Bucci said he has been getting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from Dari Farms, a Connecticut distributor.
“Warwick Ice Cream was notified in December and was given [more than] 30 days notice before any market changes took place,” Graubard said.
Bucci became president of the family ice cream business about 35 years ago, shortly after he finished college.
In those days, the company only sold its own brand of products. Bucci said he saw the need to expand and signed a contract with a company called Gold Bond Ice Cream for specialty products. In 1989, Gold Bond was acquired by Good Humor, which itself had been under the Unilever umbrella since the early 1960s, according to Unilever’s corporate website.