While local fans of Blue Bell ice cream may still be mourning the departure of their favorite frozen confection from supermarket freezer cases, the Texas dairy’s total product recall—now in its fourth month—has been an unexpected boon for Associated Grocers.
The market’s major supermarket wholesaler and distributor has seen its ice cream sales increase by nearly 100% since Blue Bell Creameries pulled its products in April following a listeria outbreak, says Associated Grocers President and CEO Emile Breaux. That’s because Blue Bell, which enjoyed an estimated 60% of local market share, handled its own distribution and didn’t go through AG.
“So now that Blue Bell is no longer available, we’ve been able to move our products in,” Breaux says. “The stores are buying more from us because it’s what is available.”
To accommodate the increased demand, AG had to purchase dozens of new freezer boxes to transport ice cream to area supermarkets. Breaux says the bump in ice cream sales has come at a particularly advantageous time of year—the summer, when ice cream sales are at their highest—and has enabled AG to push its private-label brand, Cow Bell.
“It’s doing really well,” Breaux says.
Other national brands that are enjoying more space in supermarket freezers are Breyer’s, Edy’s, Blue Bunny and New Orleans Ice Cream Company.
There’s still no word on how long the Blue Bell product recall will last. The dairy has said it will be back, but extensive testing and approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will take months, if not longer.
“We have no idea how long it will last so we’re enjoying it while we can,” Breaux says. “It’s been a nice little bump in sales but we’re not kidding ourselves. We know it’s only temporary”