With no Blue Bell in sight, putting other ice creams to the test

With news last week that Blue Bell knew about listeria in its plants for several years and that it is still cleaning its manufacturing facilities, it doesn’t look like their beloved ice creams will be back on store shelves anytime soon.

We thought it was time to try some of the other vanilla ice creams on the market to see which would be a good replacement for Blue Bell’s signature Homemade Vanilla.

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Truth be told, there aren’t that many options to choose from. Each grocery store has a house brand, but beyond that, we have Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, Dreyer’s and Breyers. I couldn’t find a plain Ben & Jerry’s vanilla, but I picked up containers of five vanilla ice creams that were as close to “homestyle” that I could find: Safeway Selects Vanilla ($4.39, 1 1/2 quarts), Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ($3.98, 14 oz.), H-E-B Creamy Creations’ Homemade Vanilla ($4.48, 1/2 gallon), Dreyers’ Va Va Vanilla ($3.88, 1 1/2 quarts) and Breyers Natural Vanilla ($3.86, 1 1/2 quarts).

IMG_7545I found willing taste testers in the newsroom to try each of the samples, without knowing which was which, and vote for their favorite. Although they didn’t all agree on a single flavor, there were several clear favorites. Five of the tasters voted for H-E-B Creamy Creations as their top pick, with two others picking Häagen-Dazs, and all of them said their first choice tasted the most like how they remember Blue Bell tasting.

It seemed like we had a clear winner until restaurant critic Matthew Odam tried them all and declared the airy Safeway Select — one of two samples made with corn syrup; Dreyers also has corn syrup — as his favorite, with Häagen-Dazs coming in second. H-E-B’s vanilla, the only one made with artificial flavors, landed at the very bottom of his list.

I’ve been asking grocery store cashiers if they’ve noticed people buying less ice cream right now, and none of them said they’d noticed a dip in sales.

How have your ice cream eating habits changed in the past few weeks? Have you started buying other brands — or did you avoid Blue Bell in the first place because of taste, price or their use of high fructose corn syrup?

Author: Addie Broyles

Food writer for the Austin American-Statesman and Austin360.com.

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