After a three-year hiatus, Blue Bell ice cream returned to store shelves in much of Virginia beginning Monday.
The iconic Texas ice cream brand hasn’t been available in Virginia since 2015 after the company halted sales here and across the U.S. because of listeria contamination.
“We are glad to be back and excited to be in a position to expand our sales territory,” said Jimmy Lawhorn, the company’s vice president for sales and marketing.
Blue Bell Creameries said its ice cream will be available in supermarkets and other stores beginning March 25 in the Richmond region, Hampton Roads, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Williamsburg and other parts of Virginia. The company completed a 14,000-square-foot distribution center in the Northlake Business Park off the Lewistown Road exit of Interstate 95 in Hanover County.
A second center in Virginia — in Suffolk — is slated to open in April.
“Our brand-new facilities will house all of the products for the area,” Lawhorn said. “We have around 20 employees on staff at this time at each location. Initially, we will bring in additional employees from other states to help with the opening. It could take up to two weeks to deliver our products to every store that is selling Blue Bell.”
Blue Bell products, including half-gallons, pints, sherbet quarts and three gallons, will be available at Kroger, Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, military commissaries and many independent grocery stores, the company said.
The company had announced a year ago that it was building the two warehouses, which have cold storage space with loading docks.
Blue Bell makes its ice cream at only three production plants — in its hometown of Brenham, Texas; and in Oklahoma and Alabama — and sends those products to its distribution centers.
In 2015, the company halted sales because of listeria contamination and voluntarily recalled its products when they were linked to 10 listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.