Donut sales on the upswing
New products, packaging sizes and health initiatives give donuts added staying power, despite the economic downturn.
Photo courtesy of Dunkin' Donuts
Consumers are feeling the economic pinch and are turning to comfort foods more than ever. Stan Frankenthaler, executive chef and director of Culinary R&D for Dunkin' Brands Inc., Canton, Mass., notes that one of the reasons the donut market is on the upswing is that a donut is one of the best comfort foods around. “It puts you in a calm place, if even for a short time. Plus, it is very affordable,” he says.
David Leavitt, vice president of snack marketing, Interstate Bakeries Corp., Kansas City, Mo., agrees. “People have embraced donuts again. They are coming back to convenient, comfort breakfast foods and snacks. Donuts, which have always been a popular option, are seeing an increase in sales as a result,” he says.
Even the challenges that slowed the donut market somewhat in the past few years have been turned into product solutions.
Consumer and legislative demand for less trans-fat was a driving factor for many manufacturers to reformulate their products. “It was a great challenge because the frying medium is so important to the product. A little bit of consumer anxiety gave us the boost to develop zero grams trans,” Frankenthaler says. Krispy Kreme and other manufacturers also followed suit and now offer no-trans donuts.
Caloric content was another health issue donut manufacturers had to address. While consumers understand a donut will never have the same caloric content as celery, they are looking for ways to cut down on calorie consumption while still enjoying some of their favorite comfort foods. Bakers found the solution in portion size and packaging size.
Change in size
Krispy Kreme introduced Krispy Kreme Minis, smaller portion sizes of its most popular donut varieties. The new mini treats are about half the size of traditional donuts and are available in three varieties: signature original glazed, chocolate iced rings and chocolate iced rings with sprinkles. “Minis make just the right addition to any party or gathering with family or friends,” says Ashley Neighbors, senior marketing director, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.
Dunkin' Donuts has a similar concept with its Dunkin' Munchkins. And, Interstate's Hostess brand has a line of mini donuts in both family size packages and snack size packs in various calorie levels for consumers watching their sweet consumption.
“The entire donut category is showing renewed signs of growth, and the whole industry is seeing a bump in sales. Hostess donut sales, both in grocery and convenience [stores], have been trending up as well,” Leavitt says.
To help make more consistent products, bakers turn to equipment companies. Belshaw-Adamatic Bakery Group, Auburn, Wash., introduced equipment that provides stability to the proofing and frying process.
“We've increased the quality and number of temperature and humidity control points as product moves through proofing and frying. Then, we've introduced PID systems to ensure that important measures stay close to target. At the end you've got a more consistent product that's closer to your programmed weight and fat content, and that's good for everybody. Belshaw recently completely overhauled its Century production lines, in part to answer demand for more consistent, healthier products,” says Mike Baxter, Belshaw-Adamatic's product information and marketing manager.
While smaller sizes are a growing area, larger donuts are equally in demand. Based on the equipment orders Belshaw-Adamatic is receiving, manufacturers also are now making slightly bigger donuts, not only in North America, but in Europe and Asia as well. “On the cake donut side, bigger plungers are being purchased. On the raised donut side, wider spacings are being ordered, for finished product sizes up to 5 in.,” Baxter says.
Donut manufacturers also are continually tinkering with their flavor offerings, trying to stay ahead of consumer trends. For example, Dunkin' Donuts introduced a berries and cream donut. “Talk about layers of flavor and excitement in the eating experience,” Frankenthaler says. “This is a yeast shell filled with Bavarian cream, coated with strawberry icing; fragrant with a good berry flavor. This is topped with white chocolate, mixed cherry bark. It is a true dessert.”
Pretty poetic talk, but Frankenthaler compares donuts to an artist's canvas. Donuts offer bakers the opportunity to create flavor, form and expressions of texture. “It has delighted consumers for decades. In a cultural sense, we can say with confidence that every culture worldwide has its own form of a donut all the way back to ancient times,” he says. “You have to fuse tradition with new. The nice thing is the price of a donut is low enough that customers can experiment. If they don't love the new, they can always go back to their old favorite.”
Some of the “new” in donuts comes from manufacturers' belief that adding rather than deleting ingredients better addresses the demand for health. For example, adding Omega 3s or using superfruits and real fruit. Interstate's Leavitt feels donuts will continue to be a staple treat, however, the ability to deliver a great tasting and quality product will still be the major factor impacting consumers purchasing decisions.
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