For the longest, Blue Bell was solely a Texas establishment. Their factory is right up the road from Houston. Kids would take school trips to the Blue Bell factory (and I imagine they still do). Everyone grew up looking forward to their seasonal offerings. And Blue Bell was the treat you looked forward to as a kid. Not ice cream — Blue Bell. So when the grocery store is out of Blue Bell, they may as well be out of ice cream altogether.
Beloved Texas staple, Blue Bell ice cream voluntarily pulled their product off the shelves following widespread listeria contamination concerns.
As my sister observed at the grocery store yesterday:
The massive voluntary recall was the first since the creamery opened in 1907. Closed temporarily, Monday, “Blue Bell Ice Cream will embark on an intensive cleaning program while it simultaneously conducts a new training program for its employees at all four production facilities with locations in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas.”
Friday afternoon, Blue Bell released the following video:
Our employees are working hard to bring Blue Bell back. Here’s their message for you:
Posted by Blue Bell Ice Cream on Friday, April 24, 2015
Citizens in Blue Bell’s hometown Brenham, Texas, came together Friday for “Support Blue Bell” day.
But “Support Blue Bell” day didn’t end there. According to Houston local news, “hundreds who gathered at the Washington County courthouse wore old-fashioned ice cream parlor hats Saturday morning as part of a rally and prayer vigil to support a century-old pillar of their community.”
If brand management experts are correct, Blue Bell loyalists will flock back to to their favorite creamy confection when it becomes available once more.
“The fans will stick with them and come back maybe even stronger than ever,” if the company continues to be open and proactive, said Josh Feldmeth, chief executive of Interbrand North America. “They’re in growth mode. I think their challenge will be to reintroduce themselves to people who are hearing about Blue Bell for the first time through this crisis.”
Zero in on consumers in the South, and Blue Bell moves almost shoulder to shoulder with the big boys in terms of overall brand performance. Based on strong sales in its core market, Blue Bell said it has grown to become one of the top three ice cream makers in the nation, even though it is sold in only about a third of U.S. grocery stores. For a regional brand to “sit as close to and be as highly held as Ben & Jerry’s or a Häagen-Dazs is a big deal,” Peacock said.
And that will make a big difference as the brand attempts to woo consumers.
“People who are close to the brand and are familiar with this brand really love this brand,” he said, adding that Blue Bell will have “a degree of forgiveness that a lesser brand would not.”
“If you have limited experience with a brand, you may start to believe, ‘Well, this is a brand I have to be careful about,’” he said.
And that whole corporate responsibility thing? Blue Bell seems to be nailing it there, too.
While some called for even more transparency, most praised president and chief executive Paul Kruse (pronounced crew-ZEEH) for launching new safety steps and explaining those steps to the public.
“They are stepping up and taking responsibility,” said former Plano resident Tammy Katz, who heads Katz Marketing Solutions and is an adjunct professor of brand management at Ohio State.
“From everything I’m seeing it looks like they’re behaving quite ethically and responsibly. You are in crisis mode, and you are focusing on doing the right thing for consumers.”
Even the company’s total recall, which followed three smaller recalls, was a “massively good thing,” said Interbrand’s Feldmeth, who is also a fan.
“Your brand heritage is: quality ice cream done the right way. When one problem occurs, we’re going to shut the whole system down till we get it right. We’re not going to chance it,” he said.
“And if you’re a Blue Bell fan, you respect that.”
The move, which essentially dropped the company’s revenue to zero, showed that Blue Bell was willing to put customer safety ahead of profits, some said. Also, from a strategic standpoint, it ended the increasing number of recalls — one, followed by another, followed by another — saving the company from possible death by a thousand cuts.
In spite of current contamination concerns, Blue Bell’s future looks bright. Meanwhile, I’m not so patiently waiting for a pint of Blue Bell’s Dutch Chocolate. It’s the best.
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