Can the supermarkets do top-tier doughnuts?

UK doughnut sales are booming but, with customers becoming accustomed to super-premium doughnuts from specialists, can the supermarkets keep up?

Decadence is the name of the game when it comes to doughnuts. Driven by the likes of Doughnut Time, Crosstown Doughnuts and a host of independent specialists across the country, premium doughnuts are gathering pace in the UK.

“Today’s consumers are demanding more indulgence, more textural combinations and more product satisfaction, with younger consumers attracted to impulse purchase by innovative products that surprise,” explains Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager UK and Ireland, Dawn Foods.

But with 74% of the UK’s doughnut purchases in supermarkets, according to Ipsos’ Final Global Report December 2017 – are Tesco, Sainsbury’s and co keeping up?

The sales figures suggest supermarkets are getting something right, with value up 10.4% on volume up 7.9% – that equates to an extra £9.7m [Kantar Worldpanel: 52 w/e 2 December 2018]. Yet this is predominantly down to non in-store bakery, which accounts for more than half of category growth.

As for in-store bakery, innovation in the category is a mixed bag. Despite signs of premiumisation (see p35) there is little differentiation between the multiples.

“Jam, chocolate and custard remain the most popular UK doughnut flavours, with emerging flavours including peanut butter and cookies & cream,” notes Passmore.

Chocolate ring doughnuts often feature frequently across ranges, and many have a filling injected into them. Popular puddings, such as raspberry ripple or millionaire’s shortbread, are another theme. Unlike the lavish creations found in specialist shops (topped with brownies, chocolate bars and marshmallows) the supermarket toppings are simpler, with chocolate sprinkles, toffee pieces and freeze-dried fruit. However, they tend to be priced from 55p each to around £1.50 for a multipack, notably cheaper than in the specialists.

Passmore suggests in-store bakeries spruce up items with a spot of shimmer or a crystal glaze to “add colour and sparkle”.

As retailers pimp other bakery items to reflect the seasons, they should cast their eyes to doughnuts as well. “Seasonal ranges perform extremely well, so consider offering lemon meringue during the spring, strawberries & cream in the summer and spiced doughnuts in the winter,” suggests Isabel Sousa, category marketing director at CSM Bakery Solutions.

The Co-op explored this last year, with an Easter-themed offering marking its first foray into premium doughnuts. Priced at 89p, it had a chocolate glaze and sprinkles to give a chocolate nest appearance, with three mini chocolate eggs in the middle. Morrisons also got into the spirit of things with Gingerbread Doughnuts at Christmas, as did Tesco with festive Golden Doughnut Bites complete with a caramel dipping sauce.

It’s right on the money. “Miniature doughnut bites and dipping sauces are a hugely popular item on menus and as a takeaway snack,” says Sousa.

Meanwhile, both Tesco and The Co-op have worked with third-party suppliers: Krispy Kreme has a presence in over 500 Tesco stores, while The Co-op recently teamed up with Dots Original doughnuts, selling products at £1.50 each or four for £5.

Branded offerings are also growing, with licensed Oreo Doughnuts now listed in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, and Cadbury Caramel Doughnuts available in the latter two.

“Buying in premium finished frozen doughnuts is often the solution for time-pressed in-store bakeries,” adds Dawn’s Passmore. “This enables bakeries to offer innovative flavour combinations and exciting formats without the time and skill required to prove and fry products.”

What’s in store?

British Baker scoured the supermarkets to see what doughnuts were on offer. Here’s what we found:

1. Asda: Strawberry & Crème Supreme, £1.30 for three

Asda has one of the most varied ranges with the Strawberry & Crème Supreme, Salted Caramel Sensation and Ultimate Chocolate at the premium end of its own-label offering. All three have gooey middles, flavoured icing and toppings such as shortbread crumbs and chocolate curls. Asda has also tapped into sharing, with strawberry, chocolate and plain mini ring doughnuts priced at £1 for a pack of 18.

2. Lidl: Choc Hazelnut Doughnut, 59p for one

One of the more unusual-looking doughnuts found by British Baker, Lidl’s creation features chocolate swirls on top and a chocolate-covered base with chocolate filling. Notably the discount retailer took inspiration from popular puddings in May last year, launching a competition in which customers could choose from options including Bramley Apple, Crème Brûlée and Banana & Toffee. The latter one rolled into stores in June 2018.

3. Morrisons: Iced Ring Doughnuts, £1.10 for four

When it comes to own-label, Morrisons’ doughnut display was a little lacking, with Iced Ring Doughnuts the most premium item available, besides the Oreo and Cadbury Caramel branded ones. Like many other retailers, it also had a selection of iced mini doughnuts aimed at sharing.

4. Sainsbury’s: Chocolate Striped Doughnuts, £1.30 for four (usual price £1.50)

These striped doughnuts have a chocolate-flavour filling, topped with chocolate-flavoured and white icing. They’re joined on shelves by Raspberry Ripple Striped Doughnuts which have a raspberry flavoured filling and pink and white icing. Besides these, Sainsbury’s offering is fairly standard with jam and vanilla doughnuts and iced ring ones available.

5. Tesco: Chocolate and Hazelnut Filled Doughnuts, £1.65 for three

The highlight of Tesco’s doughnut range was the Chocolate and Hazelnut Filled Doughnuts. The fried ring doughnuts have a hazelnut and cocoa filling, covered and drizzled with chocolate-flavoured icing and topped with biscuit pieces. Millionaire Filled Doughnuts are also available, with a toffee filling, chocolate and caramel flavoured icing and chocolate coated cereal pieces on top.

6. The Co-op: Double Chocolate Filled Doughnuts, 90p for one

Building on its range of premium doughnuts launched last year, The Co-op has a Double Chocolate Filled creation topped with chocolate-flavoured icing and chocolate chunks. However, the highlight of The Co-op’s range is the third-party offering from Dots. Menu items included the Valentine’s Day Dots, filled with white chocolate and decorated with white and red hearts, as well as the Forest Fruits Balldots filled with a blend of strawberry, raspberry and black cherry.

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