For being a “vanilla type of person,” Lisa Foster showed extra enthusiasm Monday morning when she pushed her shopping cart into Kroger's ice cream aisle.
Foster was one of many customers at Kroger who was excited to enjoy the return of Blue Bell ice cream. The company had implemented a six-months halt due to the frozen food's listeria outbreak that killed three people.
“I'm just an avid fan of Blue Bell,” said Foster, whose favorite flavor also happens to be vanilla. “It's the only type (of ice cream). It's the best.”
Blue Bell had its operations suspended since April due to the tainted-ice cream. After the distribution of phase one in late August, which included areas like Austin and Houston, as well as parts of Alabama (where the product is made), Monday's phase two included North/central Texas and southern Oklahoma.
Kroger customer service manager David Becktold said about 10-20 customers started lining up inside the 24-hour store around 4 a.m., when the delivery truck began unloading the ice cream.
Half-gallon, pints and the 12-count packages were sold. The lineup of flavors include the following: Homemade Vanilla; Dutch Chocolate; Cookies 'n Cream; The Great Divide; Buttered Pecan. More flavors are expected to increase with time. Blue Bell produces more than 250 different frozen products, with 66 of them being flavors of ice cream.
“I've been eating (Blue Bell ice cream) for years. I've been looking forward to this,” said customer Vicki Clark, who picked out The Great Divide as her ice cream selection because she likes both vanilla and chocolate. “It's a good compromise.”
United Supermarket store manager Lynn Day said it feels good to have a product-favorite return to many of its customers.
“Everybody loves Blue Bell. It is the closest you can get to homemade,” Day said. “Blue Bell has such a great reputation. People have been waiting on it.”
Customer Tommie Hill, who chose to purchase a half-gallon of Buttered Pecan, said, “I'm glad it's back.”
As for other areas to receive Blue Bell products, according to Blue Bell's website, “With the exception of phase one, no other dates have been determined for each expansion will take place."
Phase three: southwest Texas and central Oklahoma; phase four: the majority of texas and southern Louisiana; phase five: complete the states of Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas and begin distribution in Arkansas, Florida, northern Louisiana and Mississippi.
Kroger store manager Chad Curry said one of his favorite parts of Blue Bell's return, other than increased business, is that his store is able to reap customer satisfaction.
“It's being brought for them,” Curry said. “Blue Bell: that's Texas, right there. What better way to mention Texas without Blue Bell ice cream?”