Friday, March 16, 2012

Blue Bell Ice Cream ready to bloom in Triangle

We all have our breakfast rituals. For some, it’s toast and coffee. Others opt for bacon and eggs.

But in a conference room in Brenham, Texas, there is a small group that faithfully gathers each work day morning for something few consider as a day breaker. They sit around a large table, spoons in hand, to do what might be the most important act of their business day. They eat ice cream.

Want to win one of five coupons for a free half-gallon of Blue Bell
Ice Cream? Follow Eating My Words (directions at right)
and @jwlucasnc on Twitter by midnight Wednesday, March 21.
Winners will be chosen at random and announced on March 22.

 “It’s important to taste the Homemade Vanilla every day because it’s the reason we’re here, the reason Blue Bell is popular across the country,” said Brenda Valera, Blue Bell’s head of Research & Development. “It’s quality control, but it’s also grounding and team building. We don’t want to get too far away from where we started.”

Blue Bell is straying a bit this week, gearing up new trucks and delivery teams to officially enter the Triangle market on Monday, when its products will be available at Kroger, Lowes Foods and Walmart stores. Other sellers are expected to follow.

While the brand is not as ubiquitous as other grocery store stalwarts – indeed, North Carolina will become only the 20th state where it is sold – Blue Bell’s reputation for creamy texture and creative flavors has provided bragging rights as the No. 3 seller nationally.

Valera said local ice cream lovers can expect selections that reflect seasonal abundance. Many variations are based on Blue Bell’s signature Homemade Vanilla, such as strawberry and peach. Valera’s flavor descriptions prompt imagined scenes of ice cream being hand-cracked on grandma’s summer porch, with add-ins based on what’s fresh or which grandchild had a birthday preference.

Blue Bell, named for the native Texas bluebell wildflower, does little to discourage this image. “Even as the company has grown, it maintains a family ethic of working together and valuing input from all areas of the business,” Valera said. The cleverly named Made in the Shade, with its fudge ribbon, was so dubbed by a quality control employee. A flavor currently in development for 2013 release is based on a fruit bar that was a winning entry to the company’s annual employee baking contest.

Valera, a 31-year veteran who has developed countless flavors for the company, said the R&D unit typically considers about 300 concepts annually and produces as many as 20-25 of the most promising in small batches. Only 10 to 12 of those ever get invited to a series of tastings the company conducts each May, which further winnows the field to five or six winners.

One such example was Rocky Mountain Road, which was introduced in January. The decadent blend features dark chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate-coated peanuts, milk chocolate-coated pecans, white chocolate-coated almonds and roasted walnuts, all surrounded by a marshmallow swirl. It proved so popular that it likely will reappear in rotation.

The new flavor for March, which should be found in local stores next week, is Strawberry Banana Pound Cake. While she’s sworn to secrecy regarding the choice for May, Valera hinted that “it’s almost a nostalgic dessert flavor.”

Blue Bell does not operate any ice cream shops but does prepare three-gallon containers for the commercial markets. Its options for most North Carolina consumers will include half-gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt, as well as frozen snacks.

All Blue Bell products are manufactured in the company’s Texas plant and handled exclusively by employees until it is placed in a store’s freezer case. Warehouse and cold storage are managed locally in Morrisville and Greensboro, respectively, with a distribution facility to follow in Raleigh or Durham.

“We want to make sure that people who handle our brand know the importance of temperature control,” Valera said. “Freshness is of utmost importance to us. It’s a product that can be easily damaged.”

Blue Bell likewise wants to take special care of its fans by inviting them to register online for Extra Scoops. These special promotions include monthly coupons, recipes and advance notice of new flavors.

“We take seriously our responsibility to make sure our customers are happy,” Valera said. “It’s a great feeling when you talk to people and they find out where you work. I’m ecstatic that people enjoy what we create.”

*Note: Coupons for free half-gallons of ice cream are provided as a promotional item by Blue Bell. Be sure to follow both Eating My Words and @jwlucasnc on Twitter by midnight Wednesday, March 22. Winners will be chosen at random and announced on March 23. 


  1. Hello, can you please tell me where to find Blue Bell Ice Cream in Triangle, VA. I have been calling all over the place and can't locate it. We are stationed in Washington D.C. and I would love to surprise my husband with some. He's a displaced Texan serving in the This would be the best promotion gift!

    1. Hi, I just called the Walmart in Woodbridge and was told on September 12, 2012 they will begin selling Blue Bell!!!!

    2. Walmart sells Blue Bunny not Blue Bell.

  2. How far North of the Triangle is Blue Bell Sold and in which stores.