Wells Enterprises, Inc., the largest privately held ice cream manufacturer in the United States, has made Le Mars, Iowa, world famous and is currently in the midst of a multi-year expansion at its New York plant.

Founded in 1913, the company produces more than 200 million gallons of ice cream per year and distributes products in all 50 states. Wells and its nearly 4,000 employees manufacture its signature brand Blue Bunny, lower-calorie Halo Top, the iconic Bomb Pop, and Blue Ribbon Classics from Le Mars, Iowa, the “Ice Cream Capital of the World” as the largest manufacturer of ice cream in one location, and plants in Dunkirk, New York, and Henderson, Nevada.

“It takes a village to be able to produce that much ice cream, with our largest facility in Le Mars having 50 production lines it's almost an orchestra,” said Brad Galles, vice president of manufacturing and engineering for Wells. “We have just in time inventory, where we expect trucks to arrive every 10 minutes to bring us materials as we consume them, and turn them into ice cream.”

In addition to ingredients, the Le Mars facility receives 25 truckloads a day of fresh milk and another six truckloads of cream.

The Henderson site has nine production lines running with two additional undergoing installation now, Galles said.

Wells Enterprises began expanding the Dunkirk facility last year, taking it from 24 production lines down to six remaining operational during different phases of construction. Once finished, the two-story plant will more than double current production output, with the company planning for continued growth in its novelty and packaged ice cream businesses.

This follows the growth vision highlighted during the 2022 acquisition by the Ferrero Group. 

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Ice Cream Manufacturing Capital of the World

Wells Enterprises, Inc. is the largest privately held ice cream manufacturer in the United States.

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Wells Enterprises expects the first phase of the project to finish next year. The second and third phases three will follow, with construction continuing through 2027, Galles said.

“It's been done really well; the team has done an amazing job. We've had no unscheduled plant shutdowns due to any kind of, you know, cut ins or tie-ins that would have affected current production plant is actually running 15 points better efficiently wise on those six lines that are running,” Galles said. “This plant will have unique qualities of ingredient care segregation for different ingredient parameters that we want to hit with our new products. It will have high automation, from the new technologies of AI to everything we do on the maintenance side for predictive maintenance. Every single part of the old facility will be destroyed and the new facility will have state-of-the-art energy management on things like our mechanical systems, our engine rooms, how we trim compressors how we set different levels for cooling things of that nature. All the lighting is LED with motion centers. We try to weave in sustainability and everything we do from an engineering stance as we build that facility.” 

The Dunkirk facility also will feature automated packaging lines more advanced than those in Le Mars and Henderson, Galles said, with most of the Wells products stored offsite at an Americold facility about a half mile away. 

“Our company in general has such a bright future. The growth aspirations we have, especially with new ownership with Ferro, the brand portfolio at our disposal, with the great Ferro products and then with the ice cream team we have,” Galles said. “Our employees are resilient. The future is looking very good for our company.”

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