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Doughnuts are the quick bite you get when you grab a coffee on the way to work. They are the colorful combination of frosting and sprinkles that you pass by in bakery windows. Doughnuts are an assortment of different flavors, each able to roll all the tastiness up into a single ring. They are the newfound place for cereal to sit atop for an on-the-go breakfast snack.

Doughnuts are America’s tasty treat; but what else do we know about them… what else comes to mind? For another food, such as pizza, it is easy for people to get lost in the cheesy and saucy goodness, while also still being able to recall the Italian heritage and the history behind the meal. For doughnuts, most people who indulge in their flavorful offerings haven’t a clue where doughnuts came from, any facts about them, or the whole industrial world that surrounds them. When it comes to doughnuts, there are a few holes missing, and no, not just literally.

The origin of doughnuts is all-American, and it embodies the stereotypical nature of American-born foods. The doughnut movement was first sparked in 19th century Maine with a young teenage boy at the core of it all when he punctured a pastry and made a hole in the center of it. The “hole” was made in part to get rid of the middle of the dessert, which could sometimes still be raw and uncooked, even after being fried up. Bagels, another food with the signature hole, and their already-established popularity aided in the immediate acceptance and love for this new treat. Soon, immigrants in New York began to pick up on the stir, and doughnuts began to spread across the country as fast as the talk of them, too (Sagon). Soon, businesses began, evolving into what we know now as big-name companies, such as Krispy Kreme. While the concept of making a hole to create the iconic silhouette is native to America, doughnuts themselves began as a Dutch treat. Their solution to the raw middle was to have something in the center that the dough could cook and rise around. This essentially became what we know as today’s “filled” donuts, like jelly or Boston Creme (Shipley Donuts). At the start of the hype too, doughnut production was slow, as everything was being done by hand, but that started to change with the invention of new machines and technology. In 1934, a Russian immigrant invented the first machine specifically created for shaping and making donuts. This helped the industry boom, and the machine was so successful that it was presented at the World Fair in Chicago (Shipley Donuts). The American approach to solving baking issues helped create the distinct and recognizable figure of a doughnut, and other aspects of American culture and history boosted the pastry’s popularity.

As the want for doughnuts grew increasingly, so did the market for them. In 1994, as the doughnut craze was still going strong, the sales were booming. Within less than 10 years, revenue increased from $6.5 billion to over $9 billion; equating to nearly 10 billion (and counting!) donuts consumed every year by Americans (Sagon). In more recent years, primarily two huge companies have dominated the industry, those mentioned being Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. In the United States, Krispy Kreme mainly controls the southern states, while we see Dunkin’ Donuts rules the north, each on nearly every corner. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, we see many smaller companies populating certain areas, each honing in on the newest trends and flavors (Atkinson). The larger corporations and big-name companies are those looking to expand, increase their revenue, and also to spread American influence, in the form of doughnut goodness, to the rest of the world. In India, a doughnut-battle has ensued between Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts, each company vying for the largest influence. India is a component in expanding to the Western territory for many reasons, the most important being India’s nature to accept new foods quickly and incorporate them into their lives with ease. Studies show that in India, people are more likely to spend money on newer foods, and with the growing population of young folks in the country, who adapt even faster than their predecessors, any company can reap the benefits of expanding to India (Jacob). In the early 2010s, the two big-name corporations set out to expand in India, with Krispy Kreme looking to open about 35 stores and Dunkin Donuts seeking out nearly 80 to around 100 chain locations, both within the next five or so years. Their rivalry would practically be played out on every street corner in India (Jacob).

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India isn’t the only large country in the consumption market either, and as of recently, Japan and China lead sales revenue (Market Watch). However, not every business is suited to battle it out with these companies in other countries, and not every business wants to. Many smaller doughnut companies, of about 10 or so shop locations, and locally owned businesses actually profit by reaching a smaller consumer group. While they won’t find astronomical success similar to the industry-leading corporations, smaller owners are able to test out new recipes and get direct feedback. They are also able to appeal to a more focused group, creating a better opportunity for effective advertising (Tristano). Larger companies can’t afford to make a mistake on a recipe or an ad and risk a negative reaction from customers, so it takes nearly 8 to 12 months to perfect the product for the public. Smaller shops are also able to build a large sense of community, and their integrity and reputation also bring in business (Tristano). No matter what part of the doughnut industry you choose to take part in, you are guaranteed to find success in America’s most popular market.

As the Earth, society, and people change, the doughnut world must learn to adapt. While it may be commonly known that doughnuts are not necessarily the healthiest of options, not many know the other factors that go along with the treat. Traditionally, doughnuts are flour dough that has been deep fried into their distinct, hole-less shape. The batter itself may contain any number of combinations of ingredients; such as sugar, milk, eggs, oil, water, and artificial (or in some cases natural) flavoring. But that is just the dough itself; the toppings, frosting, and glaze coating a doughnut can introduce high counts of sugar, of all shapes and sizes, into the mix (Market Watch). A plain doughnut, with absolutely no toppings, coatings, or flavors of any kind, is roughly 200 calories. For doughnut consumers, it only goes up from there; Dunkin Donuts’ biggest culprit ranks at about 300 calories and 16 grams of fat, while the famous Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts are about 390 calories and 24 grams of fat… each (Carey).

Nutritional studies at the Tufts University in Boston have estimated that just one of these heavenly treats will result in “roughly 20% of USDA’s recommended allowance for fat, and 15% of the day’s allowance for calories” (Carey). These numbers don’t even include the more exotic flavors, toppings, and frostings available to us, which can be the equivalent of 27 grams of sugar and 700 calories, and that is the baseline for these new trendy treats. With their captivating and mouth-watering flavor shadowing over the statistics, it’s not hard to picture why America’s favorite food to eat is also one of the worst to eat (Renee). These numbers are scary to anyone who knows them and cares about their health; so the doughnut world reacted and proposed a solution: new recipes. There are dozens upon dozens of healthier alternatives to the traditional doughnut, the most notable being a mix of “stevia, honey, whole wheat or almond flour, dark chocolate, and other nutritious ingredients” (Renee) to substitute in. As the movement for healthier diets rocks the food industry, the doughnut world has found a way to outlast other competition by seeking out and testing a healthier alternative. Recipes that cut down the number of calories, fat, sugar, and carbs in the average doughnut significantly, without taking away from the beloved taste, are growing more and more popular as humans begin to care more and more about their diet. Doughnuts have made it possible to enjoy a tasty treat every now and then, while simultaneously keeping in mind the consumer’s diet and health.

Doughnuts can be seen almost everywhere in today’s world; on clothing apparel, household decorations, and on nearly every street corner in the US. Although doughnuts are derived from American roots, their presence spans across multiple continents and reaches the far corners of the world. Despite the unforgettable tastiness and their title as America’s most popular food, many people are unaware of the culture that surrounds them. From their quiet beginnings to near world domination, the doughnut industry has proved again and again its capability to adapt to those consuming it. Doughnuts appeal to all far and wide; bringing together locals and small business owners, adventure seekers looking for the craziest new trend to try, entire regions and large corporations, health activists and bakers alike… to now entire countries.

The American-born pastry continues to rise to success and never fails to bring a smile to whoever may indulge in all of its greatness.

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