People in southwest Louisiana tend to have loyalties at the grocery store. They drink Coke (not Pepsi). Community Coffee, almost exclusively. And if it’s not Blue Bell Ice Cream, they’d often rather eat no ice cream at all.
So on our drive from Texas to bring Eric home last Friday, we made a detour through Brenham to tour the Blue Bell factory. Pretty exciting stuff!
One thing I was NOT prepared for was the crowds! My first clue was when we couldn’t park in the parking lot, but had to park a bit down the road in a high school stadium parking lot. When we entered the visitors center, we were greeted by this mob scene. Our tour guide later told us they get an average of 2,300 visitors on an average summer Friday.
After waiting in a long line to buy tickets, we had an hour to wait for our tour time. We went over to the ice cream parlor for our free sample . . .
. . . .and strolled the grounds and learned a bit about the factory’s history from the posters and displays in the visitors center. This is the original truck that delivered their ice cream.
Here are some interesting facts you may not know about Blue Bell Ice Cream:
- The factory opened in 1907. They started out making butter. Four years later, they realized ice cream sold better and they’ve been making ice cream since then.
- In 1930, they changed the name from Brenham Creamery to Blue Bell Creamery, to reflect the owner’s love of the beautiful wildflower that symbolizes northern Texas. It was also this year that they switched from delivering ice cream in a horse-drawn buggy to refrigerated trucks.
- 70% of all Blue Bell Ice Cream is made in the Brenham factory. The remaining is made in two satellite factories; one in Oklahoma and one in Alabama.
- One day of ice cream production requires the milk from 60,000 cows, all from local farms surrounding Brenham.
- One production line (and there are several in the factory going at a time) fills 52 half gallons of ice cream a minute. They can fill 180 cones in a minute.
- Naturally, as is the case with many factory tours, there was no photography allowed. They say it is to protect the privacy of their employees. The Brenham plant employs 900 people; there are 4,500 employees company-wide, including the two other factories and dozens of distribution centers. Lake Charles has a distribution center. No wonder, as much Blue Bell Ice Cream as we eat around here!
- A hallmark of Blue Bell is the myriad of flavors. The factory produces around 60 different flavors in a year. Some flavors are seasonal. Some are regional. Others are “standard” year around flavors. Seventeen different flavors are made at the factory a day. They create 5-6 new flavors a year. If a new flavor sells well, it becomes a standard. Otherwise, they nix it. My personal favorite flavor is Rocky Mountain Road (it’s better than regular rocky road). I also love Red Velvet Cake.
- Most stores have approximately 25 flavors on display at a given time. For the best selection, go to HEB, their “signature store.”
Speaking of new flavors, while on the tour, our guide pointed out that they were currently producing a new flavor. She wasn’t permitted to divulge the name. But we could see through the glass a key ingredient. When we guessed at the new flavor, she didn’t deny it. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it comes in a turquoise container, it makes its grocery store freezer shelf debut on August 28th, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awesome!
For more information, check out their website here.
What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell Ice Cream? Or, if you don't have access to Blue Bell, what is your favorite brand and flavor of ice cream?