Blue Bell Creameries, a limited partnership with headquarters in the rural town of Brenham, Texas, is a manufacturer of ice cream and frozen dessert products that distributes to the US southwestern states. The company began in 1907 as a Washington County dairy-farmers' cooperative called the Brenham Creamery Company, when the founders converted a nearby abandoned cotton gin into a creamery and made butter from their excess supplies of cream.
Ice cream production began in 1911, and the firm took its name from a native Texas wildflower in 1930. E. F. Kruse is credited with reversing the creamery's declining fortunes after two early managers failed to expand the business.
Initially, Blue Bell produced ice cream at the rate of two gallons a day in wooden tubs filled with ice. Refrigerated trucks for distribution to retail food outlets replaced horse-drawn delivery wagons in 1936, and in 1958 the company discontinued making butter in order to specialize in ice cream production. Its most popular ice cream flavor, Homemade Vanilla, was introduced in 1969.
Despite its bucolic trademark of a barefoot country girl leading a milk cow, ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries means big business. By 1992 Blue Bell was the nation's number-two ice cream, behind Breyer's. Over the years, Blue Bell has diversified its products with the development of frozen dietary desserts, nonfat frozen yogurt, and frozen snacks, including Blue Bell Ice Cream Sandwiches, Snickers, Nestle's Crunch, and Eskimo Pie. Responding to demands for lower calorie confections, the company began using NutraSweet, and holds the distinction of being the first major United States ice cream manufacturer to make a "lite" product in 1986.
In 1987 the company established Blue Bell Advertising Associates, an in-house advertising agency, to produce seasonal radio and television spots to air between February and October. With well-placed media advertising, Blue Bell effectively reinforced its image as the "little creamery in Brenham" that makes "the best ice cream in the country." In 1990 the original Brenham plant, which incorporated building elements from the American Cotton Gin Company and included a one-story main building in the Art Moderne style, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its role as an agricultural processing facility. Blue Bell is expanding from its strong regional base surrounding Texas, but retains total control of production and distribution. The Kruse family still maintains control of the creamery.
Blue Bell is considered somewhat of an institution in Texas, with visits to its Brenham plant being a popular family activity, especially from the nearby Houston area. For a nominal admission price, the customer gets a tour of the factory and ice cream samples at the end of tours.
The creamery is always glad to share its ice cream with others and since Blue Bell ice cream isn't sold everywhere you can have it shipped and delivered to your home. The ultimate taste test is yours, so pick up some Blue Bell flavors and give them a try.