Omar Villafranca, NBCDFW.com
We go behind the curtain to see how Blue Bell makes those wonderful flavors -- even Pickle.
The folks in New England can have their Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Folks in Texas prefer Texas-own Blue Bell ice cream.
The little creamery in Brenham is the third largest ice cream maker in the country, thanks to a variety of flavors and a few interesting secrets.
Secret No. 1: Blue Bell always tries to make their ice cream taste homemade.
"If you make a banana split at home, you know, you're going to take a fresh peeled banana, you're going to eat it within minutes of what you have at home, so we want to duplicate that," said Greg Bridges, Blue Bells production manager.
So the company peels more than 38,000 bananas each day, three times per week, to put in flavors such as Banana Split, Banana Nut and Banana Pudding.
"We start peeling at about six o'clock in the morning, and we'll finish up around 12 or 1 o'clock in the afternoon," Bridges said.
Secret No. 2: Blue Bell gets some flavor ideas from employees.
Groom's Cake? That was an idea from a Blue Bell worker.
Brenda Valera, head of Blue Bell's research and development department, said it gets about 100 flavor ideas per year from employees and sales members, and the company tries to whittle the ideas down.
"We'll narrow that down to maybe about a dozen ideas, and we will take those flavor ideas and make samples out of those ideas and, we'll submit them to a series of meetings," Valera said.
While "a series of meetings" might sound high-brow, Valera admits it's just a bunch of people tasting the flavors. Valera said Blue Bell also looks over dessert menus for inspiration on future flavors.
"In creating new flavors, we look a lot toward current popular desserts -- desserts served in restaurants or pasty shops," said Valera.
Secret No. 3: Some Blue Bell flavors left behind a bad taste.
Pickles taste pretty good. But Pickles 'n Cream?
"Blue Bell actually had a pickle ice cream. It was before I came here, so I can't take credit for that one. But they did make a pickle ice cream," said Valera.
Some flavors tasted good, but just didn't sell well as an ice cream, according to Blue Bell research.
"Our flavor, which was very tasty, called Peanut Butter and Jelly ... when people tasted it, they were surprised, pleasantly surprised. I think the name of the flavor scared people away. It didn't sell," said Valera.
Secret No. 4: Blue Bell has flavors you can't buy in Texas.
If you think you've tried all of Blue Bell's ice cream, think again. Florida has their own Blue Bell ice cream called Tropical Paradise (coconut ice cream with pineapples, macadamia nuts and a pineapple coconut sauce). Kentucky has Kentucky Delight (brown sugar ice cream, chocolate chunks, nuts, pie crust and caramel), Georgia has Georgia Peach Cobbler (should be obvious) while Mississippi and Alabama have Delta Blues (blueberries, pie crust and blueberry sauce).
They're called regional flavors. Texas is home to Blue Bell, but the company knows it has to take care of their customers in other states with their own special flavors.
Secret No. 5: There is ONE place in Texas you can buy ALL of the Blue Bell flavors.
Bill Weiss, Blue Bell's public relations guru, said Texans craving the flavors sent to other states can buy them at the one HEB grocery store in Brenham -- if they haven't sold out.
On the business side, Weiss said Blue Bell is expanding slowly into other states. And while they want to get bigger as a company, they're not willing to compromise the taste of their ice cream to do so.
"We really don't spend a lot of time worrying about or studying our competitors," said Weiss. "We really find that our time is better spent focused on what we do here at Blue Bell, and that seems to work for us very well."