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|Founder||Fred H. Wells|
|Mike Wells, CEO|
Wells Enterprises, Inc. is an American food company and is the largest family-owned and -managed ice cream manufacturer in the United States, based in LeMars, Iowa. It is the maker of Blue Bunny ice cream.
Wells is the third largest ice cream maker in the United States, with five percent market share behind Nestlé, (Dreyer's, Mövenpick) and Unilever (Breyers Ice Cream). Wells produces the Blue Bunny brand, along with 2nd St. Creamery, Bomb Pop and several private label brands. In addition, Wells is the licensee for Weight Watchers Ice Cream. In 2007 and 2008 Wells sold its cultured dairy and fluid milk business to Dean Foods and its yogurt business to Grupo Lala.
Fred H. Wells opened a milk route in 1913 in Le Mars after purchasing a horse, delivery wagon, and a few cans and jars for $250 from local dairy farmer Ray Bowers.
Around 1925, Wells and his sons began manufacturing ice cream and selling it in neighboring Iowa towns: Remsen, Alton and Sioux City. In 1928 Fairmont Ice Cream purchased the ice cream distribution system in Sioux City along with the right to use the Wells name.
In 1935, the Wells family decided to sell ice cream in Sioux City again. Unable to sell their product under their own name "Wells", they decided to hold a “Name That Ice Cream” contest in the Sioux City Journal. A Sioux City man won the $25 cash prize for the winning entry of “Blue Bunny” after noticing how much his son enjoyed the blue bunnies in a department store window at Easter.
After Fred H. Wells, Jr. died in 1954, his sons, Harold, Mike, Roy and Fay, and their cousin Fred D. Wells, son of Harry Cole Wells, ran the family business as a partnership. Meanwhile, new facilities were added in the postwar period. For example, the main part of what the company, the North Plant, was built in Le Mars in the 1950s for the manufacture of ice cream products. In 1963, the company constructed its Milk Plant. The family retained ownership and management of the business after it was incorporated under Iowa law in 1977 as Wells' Dairy, Inc.
The newly incorporated business expanded in the 1980s, a decade marked by phenomenal growth of the American economy and the addition of millions of new jobs. New corporate offices were added in 1980, and Wells built new facilities for its growing fleet of trucks used to deliver milk around Iowa. In 1983, Wells purchased an Omaha plant and after being remodeled, it processed milk, yogurt and fruit juice.
In the mid-1980s the firm's North Plant in Le Mars was enlarged through the purchase of five adjacent lots. New production lines, a mix department, and a high-rise freezer helped the company double the North Plant's capability. After completion, the expanded plant covered the equivalent of one city block, with the first floor taking up 109,000 square feet (10,100 m2) and its second floor comprising 44,000 square feet (4,100 m2). The ice cream remained largely a regional brand until 1992 when it began an aggressive program to expand nationally. The centerpiece of the expansion is a 900,000-square-foot (84,000 m2) plant, which in addition to manufacturing includes a 12-story-tall freezer. The plant is referred to as the “South Ice Cream Plant” because of its physical location on the south side of Le Mars. Operating two ice cream plants in Le Mars, Wells is the world’s largest manufacturer of ice cream in one location (which in turn has prompted Le Mars to claim the title of “Ice Cream Capital of the World”). In 2003, an ice cream plant in St. George, Utah was opened to better meet the west coast market.
In November 2007, Mike Wells was named CEO of Wells.
In 2009, at a time when due to changed ingredients, some ice creams fell outside the FDA definition of standardized Ice Cream (and started selling "frozen dairy dessert"), Wells' Dairy put a seal that said "Real Ice Cream" on all Blue Bunny products.
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Wells offers more than 500 products under the Blue Bunny brand. The signature Blue Bunny ice cream flavor Bunny Tracks combines chocolate-covered peanuts, peanut butter-filled chocolate bunnies, and ribbons of peanut butter, caramel and fudge in vanilla ice cream. In addition to many other innovative ice cream flavors, Blue Bunny offers seven different varieties of vanilla.
“Just-For-You” packaging was debuted by Blue Bunny with its innovative Personals line offering single-serve ice cream in a variety of indulgent and light flavors. Blue Bunny manufactures various novelties, including Champ! Cones. Another Blue Bunny novelty, the Bomb Pop is even celebrated with its own special day, National Bomb Pop Day. The day is recognized annually on the last Thursday in June.
Blue Bunny also produces a variety of novelties and packaged ice cream to meet various lifestyle needs including all natural, low calorie, fat free or light lines including Sweet Freedom, which has no sugar added.
- Ice Cream Wars: Nestlé vs. Unilever - Business Week - August 24, 2007
- Wells' Dairy selling milk plant, will focus on ice cream Siouxcityjournal.com - December 2007
- Mexican company buys Wells' Omaha yogurt plan Le Mars Daily Sentinel - January 2008
- Wells Dairy History
- International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 36. St. James Press, 2001 (via fundinguniverse.com)
- Wells' Dairy to build new plant in Utah - Allbusiness.com - January 2002
- Mike Wells becomes CEO at Wells' Dairy - Siouxcityjournal.com - January 2008
- Blue Bunny® Ice Cream - Real Ice Cream, Blue Bunny.
- Flavors and Treats - Bluebunny.com