Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blue Bell, Mayfield Try to Outscoop Each Other on First Coast Newcomers Compete for Taste of Ice Cream Market and Battle Veteran Brands Breyers and Edy's Grand

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blue Bell, Mayfield Try to Outscoop Each Other on First Coast Newcomers Compete for Taste of Ice Cream Market and Battle Veteran Brands Breyers and Edy's Grand

Article excerpt

Byline: Moshay Simpson, Times-Union staff writer

Blue Bell Creameries wants to give Jacksonville another helping of ice cream, while scooping the competition.

That is why the Texas-based company debuted its ice cream in local supermarket freezers Monday.

Blue Bell's entry into the local ice cream market is the second of its kind in a month. Tennessee-based Mayfield Ice Cream came into Jacksonville at the beginning of April. Company president Scotty Mayfield said Northeast Florida was the final piece in his company's plan to distribute ice cream throughout the state.

The two ice cream entities are not only competing with each other for a corner of the premium ice cream market but they are also doing battle with established brands Breyers and Edy's Grand ice cream. And with the advent of summer, the hottest season for ice cream sales, both companies also expect the competition to heat up. That also means consumers can expect sales and promotions at the supermarket checkout.

So why Jacksonville? Blue Bell and Mayfield are well aware of the statistics.

In 1999 Jacksonville ranked 26th nationally in supermarket ice cream consumption per capita, according to an International Ice Cream Association study. The study also says that each person in Jacksonville buys an average of 2.3 gallons of ice cream each year, nearly a gallon more per person than supermarket shoppers in Los Angeles and New York. And although New York and Los Angeles spend and eat about three times more overall, the local market stills rank among the top 50 nationally in total sales and consumption.

So with the Blue Bell and Mayfield additions, the market is suddenly flooded with premium ice cream, which also includes store-made brands. Premium ice cream costs more and is richer in taste than its less expensive counterparts because it has a higher butterfat content. The richest of the rich ice cream, called super-premium, is made by the likes of Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs .

Blue Bell spokesman Jim Hayhurst said another reason his company came to the city is because of Jacksonville's central location to several major grocery chains like Winn-Dixie and Publix.

"We wanted to parallel those stores' distribution," Hayhurst said. Blue Bell may be new to supermarket freezers but not to the Outback Steakhouse chain, which uses it as its ice cream of choice.

The Blue Bell and Mayfield brands have existed more than 70 years. They both come from humble, small-town beginnings and have grown into Southern and Southeast regional forces in the ice cream industry. Blue Bell ice cream originates from Brenham, Texas, where the townsfolk got together and started a creamery. Mayfield is a three-generation family-owned operation that started with 45 cows in Athens, Tenn. Both companies use these modest beginnings to market their brands to customers.

Mayfield said he thinks there's a big enough ice cream market out there for everybody, while Blue Bell's Hayhurst said he thinks the ice cream market still has room to grow in Jacksonville.

"Our goal is to have the opportunity to get consumers to try our product," Mayfield said. "Once they taste it, we think we'll get our share of the public."

To help satisfy this city's ice cream craving, Blue Bell last week opened its $1.5 million distribution center on Imeson Road. When fully staffed, the 10,000-square-foot facility will employ 40 workers. Mayfield ships its ice cream from Birmingham and Orlando. Both companies have also invested in marketing campaigns to build public awareness.

Mary McDermott was one of the customers who saw Blue Bell's ad Monday when she was shopping for ice cream in the frozen foods aisle of Publix on Roosevelt Boulevard.

"I'd be willing to try it," she said as she mulled over what flavor of Ben & Jerry's to buy for her husband. …

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