Cushioned in the middle of Brenham, Texas, amongst the rolling hills of bluebonnets stands a deliciously creative corporation named Blue Bell Creameries. For over one-hundred years, Blue Bell has been a force behind some of the most beloved ice creams on the market today, including Homemade Vanilla, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, and numerous other flavors.
The dessert corporation doesn’t stop with its signature line of flavors, however. Every two months, Blue Bell rolls out a new flavor for customers to scoop and sample. The few lucky ice creams that gather a devoted following are sometimes even invited to stick around permanently. This July, which happens to be National Ice Cream Month, Blue Bell introduces its newest flavor, Summer Strawberry Pie, to dessert lovers around the state. TEXAS MONTHLY talked with Brenda Valera, director of research and development for Blue Bell, about the creamery’s newest flavor, the flavor creation process, and the return of Christmas Cookies… in July.
Tell me how about the new flavor Summer Strawberry Pie.
The ice cream is similar to a traditional strawberry pie. It’s a play on those pies people make with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. We made a strawberry ice cream, put some pie crust in it, and incorporated a whipped topping swirl.
Touch on the flavor-creation process for me.
We think about new flavors all the time. It’s part of what we do. Whenever we are in restaurants or looking at dessert menus, looking at food blogs, food journals, cookbooks, or what’s popular these days, we come up with ideas. We have a program where we gather around two-hundred ideas, and from amongst those we take about twenty-five ideas and start working on samples. From those twenty-five samples, we narrow them down to about ten or twelve samples to submit to meetings that our staff force has to evaluate for use in the coming year. From those ten to twelve, we narrow it down to five or six new flavors for the coming year. We have a new flavor coming about every two months.
You guys once came up with a pickle ice cream. Did that make its way to production?
I’ve been here over thirty years, and that happened before I came. I don’t know how that all played out, actually. [Laughs].
One flavor I was surprised to hear didn’t take off was the Peanut Butter & Jelly. I thought that would be a huge hit.
It was actually a very good tasting ice cream, but for some reason the name just wasn’t appealing. I think people didn’t buy it because they related it to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It had a great flavor to it, but it just did not sell.
Are there any other new flavors, beside the Summer Strawberry Pie, that are coming out soon?
Another flavor that’s coming out in July is called Christmas Cookies in July, and it’s only going to be available in the month of July. When we released it this last fall, it was called Christmas Cookies. It has three different types of cookies in it – chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, and sugar cookie – with red candy cane sprinkles, and a green icing swirl. People loved it so much that we knew we had to bring it back.