On November 3, 2013, I wrote about Blue Bell ice cream. It has been one of my most read efforts over the years because people love ice cream in general and Blue Bell ice cream in particular. There have been changes since Ruth and I visited. A trip to Texas was our first of 2020, and we were close enough to Brenham, home to Blue Bell, to stop and see what those changes are. We talked to Joe Robertson, Executive Director of Advertising and Marketing, who was candid in answering every question and Kallie, who greeted us and showed Ruth and me her favorite display item just before we left.
Blue Bell ice cream is probably and deservedly everyone’s #1 sweet treat wherever it’s sold. Unfortunately, it’s not available in every state. Yet. Ruth and I have never lived in a place where it is routinely sold. It’s available in almost all southern states and as far north as Indiana, as far east as North Carolina, and as far south as Key West, FL. It used to be sold as far west as Las Vegas, but this is the only market that Blue Bell has not yet returned to.
The year 2015 contained Blue Bell’s first and only product recall in its more than 100 year history. In the spring of that year there were 5 cases of listeriosis in Kansas. Blue Bell Creameries recalled all of its cartons of ice cream and other products and completely shut down production. This brand began returning to stores before the end of that year with the full cooperation of the FDA, and the company inaugurated a 5 phase planned return that was slow and successful. Blue Bell is now available in every market it was in before, except Las Vegas.
So what are the changes Ruth and I noted? The guided tour that we enjoyed with several children is no longer available. The tour is now self-guided, but it does take visitors to decent views of the ice cream making process. There is still a well-used tasting room for sampling. I tried Triple Chocolate and Homemade Vanilla, Blue Bell’s signature flavor: 240 cups of it are produced every minute in Blue Bell’s 3 manufacturing plants. 50,000 gallons of milk are used per day. I don’t know what Ruth tried because she went for ice cream while I browsed the baseball display below the free samples. Blue Bell still produces an occasional unusual flavor. In the past it made Jelly Terror and Dill Pickle’n Cream. Sarah, whom we met in College Station, rhapsodized about her all-time favorite Blue Bell flavor, Cantaloupe. Not all of the flavors available in its tasting room make it into stores that sell Blue Bell. I noted that Peachy Peach and Cake Batter were especially popular with other visitors in the tasting room with me. 3 to 5 new flavors make it into stores each year. The Outback chain no longer sells Blue Bell, but we looked for and found it in a Cinemark Theater later. The company seems to be putting more emphasis on specialty products like Mooo and Krunch bars.
Kallie’s favorite display item turned out to be a photograph of astronauts drifting in space while eating Blue Bell ice cream.