When did Blue Bell ice cream come back?

In this April 10, 2015 file photo, Blue Bell ice cream rests on a grocery store shelf in Lawrence, Kansas.


How a billionaire brought back Blue Bell ice cream

After a nationwide recall forced Blue Bell to lay off 1,500 in May, the ice cream may be back soon.

  • By Shontee Pant Staff writer

July 14, 2015

The Brenham, Tex.-based ice cream company Blue Bell just accepted a "significant investment" from Fort Worth oil billionaire Sid Bass, following a national product recall this past spring.

“We are pleased Sid Bass has made a significant investment with our company. The additional capital will ensure the successful return of our ice cream to the market and our loyal customers,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell chief executive officer and president in a press release.

Mr. Bass is ranked #391 on the Forbes List of Billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1.66 billion. He and his three brothers run the oil company Bass Operating (Bass Energy Production Company), which they inherited from their uncle, Howard Bass. The company primarily sources its oil from Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Montana, Texas, and West Virginia.

In April, Blue Bell voluntarily recalled all products, from all facilities across the nation, after some of the products were found to be infected with the food-borne bacteria listeria. The recall also led to 1,450 layoffs, the first in the history of the 108-year-old company. Following the layoffs, Kruse recorded a video apology saying, "At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future." Kruse added, "This is a sad day for all of us at Blue Bell, and for me personally."

Following the complete product recall, numerous postings arose on Craigslist with buyers demanding exorbitant prices of more than $500 for a pint of Blue Bell, “collectors ice cream at its finest.” The company typically makes 20 flavors of ice cream year-round and rotates through 35 additional flavors as well; the ice cream products are available in 23 states, and the company operates 60 distribution facilities around the country.

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Blue Bell was the second largest manufacturer of ice cream in the United States, as measured by sales in 2015. Currently the company is privately owned, and the Kruse family operates the company. 

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“We are excited to be a part of the Blue Bell brand and family,” said Bass in a press release. “Blue Bell is the quality leader in the ice cream industry.  We believe quality is the principle attribute that ensures the success, growth and longevity of a business.”

While there is no word yet on when the famous half-gallons will be returning to freezer shelves, on July 8 Blue Bell issued a statement saying the company had “notified the U.S. FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and state health officials in Alabama that it hopes to begin test production of ice cream at its Sylacauga, AL, facility in the next several weeks.”

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When did Blue Bell ice cream come back?

Mark Sappenfield


Monitor journalism changes lives because we open that too-small box that most people think they live in. We believe news can and should expand a sense of identity and possibility beyond narrow conventional expectations.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — It is taking longer than expected for Blue Bell Ice Cream to make its way back into groceries, and the company's president said Thursday it is still months away "at a minimum."

The Blue Bell production plants in Brenham, Texas, Broken Arrow, Okla., and Sylacauga, Ala., are closed because of possible listeria contamination, and no ice cream is being produced at this time

Meanwhile, a government investigation released Thursday says Blue Bell had evidence of listeria bacteria in its Oklahoma plant as far back as March 2013. The company then continued to ship ice cream produced in that plant after what the Food and Drug Administration says was inadequate cleaning.

Three listeria deaths in Kansas are now linked to the ice cream. The company recalled all of its products last month, following several smaller recalls.

The FDA released its investigations into Blue Bell's plants in Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama after a Freedom of Information request by The Associated Press. The most extensive violations were found in Oklahoma, where the FDA released 16 separate positive tests for listeria on equipment and in ice cream from March 2013 through January 2015.

Violations in the Oklahoma plant include dirty equipment, inadequate food storage, food being held at improper temperatures and employees not washing hands adequately.

There were also violations at the Texas and Alabama plants. In Alabama, FDA investigators observed at least two employees working with the food wearing soiled clothing. In Texas, investigators saw condensation dripping directly into food and onto surfaces that came directly in contact with food. In all of the plants, the FDA found dirty equipment and infrastructure that made cleaning difficult.

"Several swab tests did show the presence of listeria on non-food surfaces in Blue Bell's Broken Arrow plant in 2013," the company said in an email. "As is standard procedure for any such positive results, the company would immediately clean the surfaces and swab until the tests were negative. We thought our cleaning process took care of any problems, but in hindsight, it was not adequate, which is why we are currently conducting such a comprehensive re-evaluation of all our operations."

A statue based on the Blue Bell logo is displayed at the Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas.

The company, which has collected about 8 million gallons of ice cream and ice cream products, said the process of getting its facilities operating again will take longer than initially planned.

"The extensive and detailed process of updating, cleaning and sanitizing our four production facilities, as well as training employees and implementing new programs and procedures, will take longer than we initially anticipated," the company said in a release.

CEO and President Paul Kruse said there is not yet a firm timetable to get it back on grocery store shelves.

"We believe at this time that it will be several months at a minimum," Kruse said.

"We are working closely with the appropriate federal and state regulatory agencies and our microbiology experts, and we are mapping out the many details of returning to production and distribution as soon as we can do so with confidence."

When did Blue Bell come back?

After a highly publicized absence, Blue Bell ice cream is back. The products that had been unavailable for more than four months returned to store shelves in parts of Texas and Alabama on Aug. 31. The famous ice cream maker's re-entry into the marketplace was met with much fanfare.

Is Blue Bell ice cream back?

Blue Bell Creameries is excited to announce it will be expanding its distribution area to include Las Vegas and the surrounding cities beginning in the spring of 2022.

Why did they stop selling Blue Bell ice cream?

Subsequent tests confirmed Listeria contamination in a product made at another Blue Bell facility in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which resulted in a second recall announcement on March 23, 2015. Additional positive test results ultimately led Blue Bell to recall all ice cream products in April 2015.

Is Blue Bell still making ice cream?

Today, our product lineup includes Blue Bell Ice Cream, Light Ice Cream, No Sugar Added Ice Cream, Sherbet and frozen snacks. Each one is distributed to supermarkets and food stores through our direct store delivery program.