A VISIT TO THE BLUE BELL CREAMERIES
The Blue Bell Creameries market their product as "the best ice cream in the
country," and as any of their loyal customers will tell
you, that's not just hype.
They make Blue
Bell Ice Cream, which is ranked as the third best-selling
ice cream brand in the United States. An amazing statistic,
considering that Blue Bell is only sold in the southeastern
states, a mere 17% portion of the country.
Blue Bell Creameries was founded in Brenham, Texas, a small
town located 90 miles southwest of the Texas capital of
Austin and about 70 miles west of Houston. This is their original home,
where they started out selling butter in
1907. They began making ice cream in 1911. Still family-owned and operated, they are one of the few
companies who still let the public come in and tour
their production facilities.
The countryside view, on a fresh spring Texas day, looks
just like the Blue Bell ads with the fields of cows,
bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes as far as the eye can
They're building a
new focal point on the front of the company property to mark the celebration of their 100th anniversary.
In front of the Welcome Center is a shiny black Ford
refrigerated truck from the 1930's. The refrigerated
truck enabled Blue Bell to start marketing their ice cream a
bit farther than the local Brenham area back in 1936.
Inside the Welcome Center is a main room with large,
blown-up black and white pictures of the Blue Bell Creamery
of the past. Other items from the past are displayed around the room.
They're similar to the ones on the postcard shown here. A Simplex Time Recorder is hanging on the wall. It was used
by early employees to record their work time. An old metal
ice cream snack mold sits upon a table. In a small display
case near the cash register are some examples of early Blue
Off to one side of the main room is The Country Store and
Ice Cream Parlor. The ice cream parlor serves a variety of
ice cream flavors to visitors and customers. The gift shop
has many items, some marked with the Blue Bell logos. Tee
shirts that say I Heart Blue Bell and I Get Cranky without my
Blue Bell line one wall. Small items such as magnets,
cookbooks and mouse pads in the shape of a half-gallon of
Blue Bell Ice Cream are for sale. On the wall are framed
newspaper articles about the company. It's bright, clean,
and a great place to stop for an ice cream any time.
The plant operates in full production mode from March 1
to September 30, and although they operate year round, not
as much ice cream is made during the fall and winter months.
Tours are still are available year round.
Each tour takes only 45 people and there are several
scheduled each day. Groups over 15 must have a reservation,
and for everyone else it's first come, first served.
The tour begins with a short movie in a small auditorium, also off the main room. Forty-five seats are available in
theatre style seating for the short, yet entertaining,
seven-minute film on the history of Blue Bell. The tour guide on this particular tour
was Texas friendly and seemed as content as the cows that
their brand is known
for. After the film, the group takes a walk up through the production facilities.
Along the hallways that lead to the enclosed,
air-conditioned catwalk that spans the production room are
vintage Blue Bell advertisements, awards and historic
photos. One passes the employee break room, which has an
open glass window. There you can see the freezer full of of
ice cream snacks which gives credence to the company motto "We eat all we can and sell
The production room is well-lit and filled with stainless
steel equipment that is manufactured in Germany to company
specifications. The fresh milk is brought in every
morning from local farms and piped into the large containers
where the ice cream mix is added and the milk is pasteurized and
homogenized. This side of the room is also where flavorings
They make certain products on certain days. On the day of
this tour they are producing Pistachio Almond flavor,
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and ice cream sandwiches.
The other side of the huge room holds the rest of the
view of the automated processes. There's the station where
the all the goodies are added. We can see large quantities of chopped
almonds and small pieces of cookie dough being added to the
vats. A machine spits out cartons and lids, where a spout fills
each half-gallon container with the bright green confection,
spinning the container around automatically so that it
fills properly and without air. Immediately after filling
and the lid is placed, four or five of the containers are put into a
cardboard sleeve which is immediately turned upside down so
that it seals nicely. Then the sleeves head down a conveyor belt
to the Blast Freezer, which, the tour guide explains,
maintains a temperature of 100 degrees below zero.
The Ice Cream Sandwich Machine is a marvel itself,
considering that they used to be made and wrapped by hand.
You can see the employees stacking the chocolate cookies into a slot,
where it makes it way down to the small blocks of ice cream.
Later, the machine wraps each individual snack in paper wrappers
and a box is filled with the completed snack.
The tour guide also explains that each employee down
jobs every twenty minutes. This is to relieve boredom from
the repetitious nature of these jobs and also ensures that
every employee knows how to do every job. There's a lab
located elsewhere in the building, where the employees taste and
analyze the products for quality control.
Another amazing fact is revealed: Blue Bell doesn't pay for shelf space in the supermarkets. Almost unheard of. That tells you
something about the degree of loyalty from their customers.
Blue Bell Ice Cream is different from most other ice
cream in that the company makes sure that only Blue Bell
employees handle the product from the beginning of production all
the way down to delivery to the stores. They feel that this method, ensures that the product maintains the high quality and
necessary temperature controls all the way through the
Another room we visit, with a closer view of the Ice Cream
Sandwich Machine, also holds a small locomotive created by
local Brenham artists that will be auctioned off for charity later in
the year. There's an example of a horse-drawn buggy that was
used for deliveries in the beginning, before the advent of the trucks and refrigerated trucks. There's also a
small machine, appearing so very small compared to the larger equipment
used today, that was used to make only a few gallons at a
The tour ends in the Ice Cream Parlor, where
every guest is offered a dish of the Blue Bell flavor of
their choice. In the summer, when the tours are more crowded, the ice
cream for the tour goers is given out in a lobby area of the main plant building and guests are
ushered outside to to enjoy their treats, but during slower
times, it's enjoyed indoors. Each tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.
Of course, it takes a while longer to savor your ice cream.
The plant employees about 800 people, many of whom
started at Blue Bell in high school and continued throughout
their adult life. Perhaps one incentive for contented employment is
that employees are encouraged to eat all the ice cream they
It's a refreshing look at a small company that's
successful because of the care that they put into their
product. They expand slowly and meticulously, choosing quality over
quantity. And judging by the demand for their product, it's a plan that's
obviously working .
You can visit the
website to find out
about new flavors, which of their rotating flavors are
available during which months and more information about
Blue Bell opened a plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 1992 and in 1996 they
purchased a manufacturing facility in Sylacauga, Alabama. Tours of
these facilities are also available, although on an appointment basis only.
Tour Information: The Blue Bell tours are available on
weekdays only. Call or visit their
for more detailed information.
Phone: (800) 327-8135