Good news, Blue Bell fans: The South’s beloved ice cream maker is, well, making ice cream again.
The bad news: It’s not for sale yet.
The company confirmed that one of its smaller factories has reopened, the first time Blue Bell has made ice cream since it shut down production in April. It was forced to throw out 8 million gallons after Listeria-tainted ice cream sickened people in four states, the first recall in its 108-year history.
Blue Bell is only making a few flavors at the Alabama plant (it isn’t saying which), and instead of going on shelves now, the company is building up its inventory, spokeswoman Jenny Van Dorf said.
As for when it will return to grocery stores, Van Dorf said that hasn’t been decided, either.
Still, it’s a big deal for a company with a loyal fan base that has grown from its roots in tiny Brenham, Texas, to one of the biggest ice cream makers in the nation. Last year, it was the U.S.’s third-largest ice cream manufacturer, selling 6.4 percent of America’s ice cream.
The news of the re-opening was well-received by fans on Twitter, who have at times sounded like they’re describing a long-lost lover, not a tub of ice cream.
Blue Bell says it has taken a number of steps to avoid another outbreak, like taking apart machines to sanitize them, cleaning air conditioning systems and re-training employees.
The company has made “good progress” with its other factories, including its largest, which is near its Texas headquarters, Van Dorf said, but it hasn’t decided when they will reopen.