The excitement began nearly six months ago when Blue Bell Creameries announced plans to open a distribution center in North Las Vegas, and interest in the Texas-based company hasn’t melted since.
“We would consider this one of the best market entries we’ve had,” Operations Sales Manager David Horner said. “We weren’t sure how the customers would react and we were afraid the customers were unfamiliar with us, but it’s been very exciting to have the reception we’ve had.”
Blue Bell Creameries, which started in 1907 in a small town near Houston and is now produced there, in Oklahoma and Alabama, is now the top premium ice cream brand at both Albertsons and Smith’s grocery stores in Las Vegas, Horner said.
The company’s 12,000-square-foot facility at 6957 Speedway Blvd. receives ice cream several times a week from an Albuquerque, N.M.,-based distribution center. Sixteen trucks then fan out to 125 supermarkets, including Albertsons, Food 4 Less, Glazier’s Food Marketplace, Smith’s, Walmart and Vons, as well as 65 Walgreens stores in the Las Vegas area.
“You can’t imagine the excitement customers have around our ice cream,” Horner said.
The company likes to say it has “enviable loyalty among its many devoted fans,” and touts itself as the nation’s third-most-popular ice cream even though it is sold in only parts of 23 states.
According to ACNielsen SCANTRACK data for the year ending Aug. 3, 2013, Blue Bell sold 62 percent of all ice cream bought at supermarkets in Houston; 60 percent in Dallas/Fort Worth and in New Orleans/Mobile; 42 percent in Oklahoma City/Tulsa; and 37 percent in Birmingham/Montgomery. Horner declined to provide comparable statistics for sales so far in Las Vegas.
Blue Bell fans include astronauts who have carried the ice cream into space, a pair of presidents named Bush who had it shipped to the White House, and Las Vegas resident Julie LaCour Rosati.
A Louisiana native, Rosati has bought Blue Bell ice cream for as long as she can remember, and was elated when it started appearing in Sin City’s supermarkets.
“I was so excited when I saw a picture at Smith’s saying that Blue Bell was coming here,” she said. “I took a picture of the sign and posted it all over Facebook.”
Rosati said her favorite flavor is also the company’s most popular offering — Homemade Vanilla.
“It’s rich, not fluffy creamy like some ice cream can be, and it’s smooth,” she said. “It’s one of those that you know you want when you’re eating peach cobbler or a hot dessert.”
Kaysie Noska, a Blue Bell public relations market specialist, said the company offers 50 flavors, including 25 year-round flavors and 25 seasonal ones, including some that incorporate Homemade Vanilla.
“The reason we rotate our flavors is to keep the selection fresh, based on seasonal preferences,” she said. “That is why you will find our fresh fruit flavors when they are nice and ripe, such as our current offering, Peaches &Homemade Vanilla, in the summer time.”
Noska said Blue Bell moves slowly when entering new markets, and concentrates on service over volume.
“Some of the main factors that we consider when going into a new market are sales potential, customer base and grocer relations,” she said. “We won’t enter a market until we can handle our products and operate our business like we have always done.”
While Blue Bell’s focus has been in grocery stores in the Las Vegas area, Horner said he wants to expand restaurant sales. Blue Bell is now on the menu at Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
“We’d like to look into the restaurant industry, schools and hotels, places we haven’t looked into yet,” he said. “We’ll also be looking for a permanent facility here in the near future.”
For now, Horner said he’s glad Blue Bell moved into the Las Vegas market.
“Vegas has been a wonderful city, and I feel as though we’re just getting started,” he said. “We still have people here who haven’t tried us, and I think we have great potential for the future.”
Contact reporter Ann Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.