Albertsons Companies Inc., the conglomerate that owns grocery store chains across the country, including Vons, Pavilions, and Safeway, recently moved to add Rite Aid to its portfolio. Along with the drug store chain would come the Thrifty ice cream brand, which has been owned by Rite Aid since 1996.
Under the new ownership plans, the Thrifty brand name should be sticking around but, as the Los Angeles Times reports, Albertsons reps won’t confirm that the ice cream sold under the Thrifty name will be the same product that generations of Angelenos have grown accustomed to—nor will they confirm it’ll even still be made in L.A.
Thrifty ice cream started out in 1929 as a drugstore and soda fountain at the corner of Fourth and Broadway in the Art Deco heart of downtown L.A. They didn’t produce their own ice cream back then, but as the drugstore chain grew, the owners decided to open a factory of their own. In 1940, they set up a small factory in Hollywood, making rocky road, concord grape-pineapple, and fruit cake flavored ice creams. The chain continued to grow and by 1976 Thrifty was the biggest drugstore chain on the West Coast. Even as the soda fountain era was waning, ice cream sales remained strong, and they opened a larger factory in El Monte.
That El Monte facility is still where all Thrifty ice cream is produced today, even though the Thrifty store chain was purchased by Rite Aid in 1996. In addition to the scoop counters inside about 500 Rite Aid stores, the ice cream is sold in retail cartons at Rite Aid stores, and at wholesale to other restaurants around L.A. There are about 30 flavors in regular production, many of which have been made for decades.
Even though Albertsons says they want to continue selling ice cream under the Thrifty name, some are speculating that El Monte factory could be on the chopping block. Albertsons already owns two ice cream factories, which make the in-store ice cream brands they currently own, including Lucerne and Signature Select.
It’s possible they might move production to one of those facilities, and just add another design to the packaging coming off the lines. That is certainly not a forgone conclusion, though–and there’s even a move afoot by some Rite Aid shareholders to attempt to block the Albertsons bid entirely. So, for the moment, Thrifty operations—right down to the custom cylinder-shaped scoops they’ve been using to serve ice cream for generations—are proceeding as usual.
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