The UK doughnut market is changing rapidly. Once dominated by supermarket jam doughnuts and hot sugared options at seaside towns, it has exploded to make way for household names, innovative independents, and everything in between.

“The doughnut market is undergoing significant changes in terms of the types and sizes of businesses operating within it,” explains Laura Hensley, marketing assistant at ADM Milling. “While traditional bakeries and doughnut shops remain prominent players, there has been a notable rise in the presence of larger retailers and specialised doughnut chains.”

“Doughnuts are one of the most popular items in bakery right now”

Doughnut Time, Crosstown, Project D, and Doughnotts are among the specialised doughnut chains to make a splash on the UK market while behemoth Krispy Kreme, which is celebrating 21 years on UK shores, has also expressed its desire to get doughnuts into the hands of more happy customers.

“Doughnuts are one of the most popular items in bakery right now and for good reason,” believes George Tatlow, head of NPD – foodservice at The Compleat Food Group. “Consumers are looking for treats that are indulgent but affordable, which doughnuts are perfectly placed to provide.”

A long Bakewell doughnut filled with cream and jam with swirls of chocolate on top

Source: Wrights Food Group

A Bakewell doughnut

Thankfully, the nation’s appetite for the sweet treats has kept up with the ambitions of these firms, meaning that in 2024 the market is vibrant and relatively sheltered from the cost-of-living crisis.

“There is an ongoing demand for doughnut products across the bakery sector with 36% of people in the UK increasing their consumption of doughnuts in the last 12 months,” notes Miriam Bernhart, category director bread & pastry solutions at CSM Ingredients, the sponsor of National Doughnut Week which is taking place from 18 to 26 May 2024 to raise money for The Children’s Trust charity.

“They are a key feature in all ranges as they appeal to a wide-ranging audience,” Bernhart adds. “This has been fuelled by innovation in flavours, decorations, eating occasions and boutique doughnuts culminating in doughnuts also being perceived as visual and culinary masterpieces.”

So, what are the innovations, flavours, fillings, toppings, and more capturing the nation?

All shapes and sizes

When is a doughnut not a doughnut? This isn’t the start of an amusing riddle, but instead an examination of the evolution of doughnuts and their formats in recent years.

“If you’d asked consumers five years ago what their favourite ‘doughnut’ was, it would have been a close call between a ‘filled’ round doughnut and a sugar ring doughnut,” believes Andy Taylor, NPD manager at Zeelandia UK. “From yum yums, finger doughnuts, doughnut holes and giant doughnut cakes, today, the very definition of this popular sweetened dough spans many shapes, sizes, and flavours alike.”

A finger doughnut with vegan bacon, blueberries and candied pecans on top

Source: Longboys

Longboys’ Veganuary special edition maple, facon, and blueberry doughnut

Longboys, which specialises in gourmet finger doughnuts, is one of the notable players in the arena. Finger doughnuts are arguably more traditional than their round cousins, but the London-based company has sought to refine them using the pastry skills of its founders to create light brioche-based treats with patisserie-style toppings. Pistachio crémeux, toasted meringue, and blueberry compote are among the fillings to grace the doughnuts at Longboys’ three sites.

Rapidly expanding Canadian chain Tim Hortons is one firm pushing doughnut bites, or Timbits as its version are known, while up-and-coming Project D has dabbled with the other side of the size spectrum to create giant doughnuts for all occasions.

With the evolution of shapes and sizes, comes the rise of hybrid doughnut creations. It arguably started with the cronut – the classic croissant/doughnut mash-up – but has continued to evolve as bakers “combine flavours and formats of popular bakery products to create new and exciting treats that have added social media appeal”, notes Tatlow at The Compleat Food Group.

Marks and Spencer Yum Nuts

Source: M&S

M&S Yum Nuts

The YumNut – yum yum meets doughnuts – brought to shelves by M&S in 2020 continues to draw in fans with caramelised biscuit, Eton mess, and lemon meringue options among those available.

Other examples highlighted by Tatlow include the ‘Panettonut’, which combines doughnut dough with the flavour profile of a Panettone to offer a modern twist on a Christmas classic, and hot cross bun doughnuts that bring together fluffy fruity dough with seasonal custard.

Sense of adventure

The hybrid trend continues through to flavours, as bakers blur the lines between beloved desserts and doughnut fillings. These combinations are “right on trend”, according to Jacqui Passmore, marketing lead West EU & AMEAP at bakery supplier Dawn Foods pointing to the likes of apple crumble, cinnamon dulce de leche, tiramisu, and key lime pie as fillings which tick this box.

Bread Ahead is one such bakery having captured an audience both on social media and in person for its Crème Brûlée doughnuts, which were first introduced in October 2023. The visual of the sugar on top being melted by hot metal is a sight to behold both on and offline.

Bread Ahead Crème Brulee doughnut being torched with a heating element

Source: Bread Ahead

Bread Ahead’s Crème Brûlée doughnut

“Our Crème Brûlée doughnut is still the top seller by far,” says founder Matthew Jones, adding that it is “the top seller of anything we have ever done. It really is unbelievable”. It outsells the next most popular flavour of vanilla by more than 50%, and sometimes even double.

Naturally, the nation’s bakers are all hoping to come up with the next big thing when it comes to doughnuts. The good news is there are plenty of up-and-coming flavours (plus a host of classics waiting to be invigorated) to choose from.

“Adventure is back on the menu as consumers embrace new flavours from around the world as well experimenting with unexpected flavour combinations,” says Passmore. “We’re seeing some fantastic creations that are breaking traditional boundaries, with new flavours, textures, and formats.”

Yuzu is a flavour on the rise thanks to its tartness and floral undertone, while other Asian influences such as miso and matcha are gaining popularity particularly when paired with sweet flavours.

Matcha infused doughnuts with meringue and dried strawberries on top

Source: CSM Ingredients

Pistachio is the premium flavour for 2024, Passmore adds, highlighting the use of it by luxury doughnut firm Donutelier in its Sweet Rose Doughnut, which features a pistachio & vanilla filling, meringue, Chantilly cream, raspberry jam, ground pistachios, and a fresh raspberry on top. Other examples include Krispy Kreme’s Baklava Bliss, released in its Eid range, filled with pistachio, and topped with sliced almonds, hazelnut nibs, and honey drizzle. Crosstown has also embraced the green hue with its vegan-friendly pistachio & rose doughnut, which sees its signature vegan sourdough base filled with pistachio & rose custard, topped with rose icing and a pistachio crumble.

Pump up the jam

As Technotronic blasted out in the late eighties, it’s time to “pump up the jam”.

“There are so many tempting morning goods competing in the same space from Viennoiserie to Scandi-style buns, but the classic jam doughnut continues to outsell all of them,” says Cavan Bakery MD Nicky Taylor. “This speaks to its enduring popularity – as simple as it is, it can’t be bettered.”

A circle of sugared jam doughnuts on a wooden cake stand

Source: Cavan Bakery

Jam doughnuts are Cavan Baker’s bestseller

Jam doughnuts are the UK’s favourite doughnut, according to recent research by CSM Ingredients, with 40% of those polled declaring their love for the classic creation. With that in mind, some in the industry believe more attention should be paid to the jam.

Jam has “become a big thing”, according to Bread Ahead’s Jones who categorises doughnut customers in two ways – “the creamy, chocolatey customer and the jam customer”. He’s not talking bog standard jam either but “proper, homemade raspberry jam”.

A YouGov survey from 2022 found that the classic jam doughnut is a consumer favourite, with 52% of Brits choosing a jam-filled ball doughnut as their first choice, and 39% of those opting for a raspberry jam filling. That does leave a good proportion wanting other fruity flavours though.

“What we have seen is that bakers are being more experimental with their doughnut jams, using alternatives such as pineapple, blueberry, apricot, or even more indulgent fruit fillings such as red cherry,” notes Zeelandia’s Taylor.

Four jam doughnuts with different flavours of jam inside

Source: Zeelandia

Doughnuts with a difference

It is hard to stand out in a crowded market. But doing so, as Bread Ahead proved, can be lucrative. As such, many are turning to indulgence, premiumisation, and innovation as a point of difference.

“The trend for visually stunning doughnuts is being favoured by Gen Z consumers who have adopted TikTok and short form videos on Instagram and YouTube as quick ways to digest information on trends in new food and drink products,” explains Passmore at Dawn Foods.

Bigger is likely to be better online (as has been seen in the online popularity of giant croissants and other sweet treats) but an interactive element can go a long way to boosting popularity.

The nation has developed a fascination with ‘what’s inside, observes Michael Schofield, Bakels Group marketing manager. “Consumers love the element of surprise when biting into a doughnut filled with a delicious filling. There’s the pop of enjoyment, with indulgent products torn open to reveal a tasty filling and it makes for incredible Insta-worthy snaps too,” he says.

A pistachio & rose doughnut with a bite taken out of it and pistachio filling oozing out

Source: Crosstown

A limited edition Pistachio & Rose vegan doughnut from Crosstown

Krispy Kreme is one of the brands to embrace the online community, going so far as to include a bookable content studio for influencers at its recently opened flagship store on Oxford Street. The opening was also attended by a host of influencers, including The Traitors season 2 winner Harry Clark. It is also extending its reach beyond bakery through collaborations with brands from outside the food & drink sphere, such as its recent partnership with online fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing.

“Social media is a key element of the doughnut market in the UK, helping to spread news of new offers and keep our products front of mind. We are focused on creating emotional loyalty beyond simple transactions and are fostering a community of doughnut lovers,” says Jamie Dunning, president and managing director of Krispy Kreme UK & Ireland.

“Doughnuts remain as relevant as ever, but customer expectations are evolving. We’re leaning into this with apex brand experiences such as our melt-in-the-mouth Original Glazed doughnuts, which customers can see being made fresh daily at our Hot light shops,” he adds.

Krispy Kreme and Traitors winner

Source: Krispy Kreme

Harry Clark at the opening of Krispy Kreme’s Oxford Street store

Experiential and interactive doughnut experiences are gathering pace, notes Hensley at ADM Milling, as they provide consumers with “unique opportunities to discover and indulge in their favourite treats”. “Social media plays a significant role in driving this trend, with consumers eager to share their experiences and discoveries with friends and followers online,” she adds.

A doughnut for every occasion

Sharing is caring, particularly when it comes to doughnuts. Krispy Kreme says that more than 70% of its sales are shared in some form, whether with friends or colleagues at the office as they “remain an accessible and affordable” treat for celebrations big or small.

“The trend of doughnuts being bought for sharing and for celebrations such as birthdays, parties, weddings, and christenings as well as seasonal treats will continue as consumers make the most of the appeal,” explains CSM Ingredients’ Bernhart. “Personalisation is important here with 58% of 16-24-year-olds stating that adding their own decorations appeals to them so bakers can indulge in this via toppings and fillings for birthday and occasions.”

Wedding doughnuts

Source: Getty Images / kynny

Project D’s TIY collection – that’s text it yourself – is one option on the market which allows consumers to choose their glaze and craft a message, which the Derby-based firm will then create on one of its Mega Doughnuts.

Gifting presents another opportunity for sweet treats with many of the online specialists, including Crosstown and Doughnut Time, offering gifting options for their ranges with add-ons like a greetings card, celebratory sleeve, or even a tipple to accompany the sweet treats.

Day to day, CSM says 70% of doughnuts are purchased in the afternoon, partially as a result of promotional activity, in-store merchandising, and their appeal as an indulgent, on-the-go snack.

Fellow bakery supplier British Bakels points to the ‘big night in’ as a potentially untapped opportunity for doughnuts, particularly for premium offerings.

From in home to out of home, events and shows are becoming an increasingly important arena for doughnut makers to play in. And some of the events may be surprising.

Doughnotts new Biscuit Bonanza box from home delivery nationwide

Source: Doughnotts

“We find doughnuts are a big thing in the bodybuilding scene. A lot of people tend to just eat everything they have been restricting themselves of whilst training for a competition. Once it’s over, many love to celebrate with doughnuts,” says Wade Smith, MD of Nottingham-based Doughnotts, which has taken its treats to the Arnold Sports Expo and the UK Top Tattoo Artists Convention.

Project D, meanwhile, pops up at more than 2,500 events across the UK every year from Comic Con to chicken wing celebration Wing Fest, and even international sporting events at Wembley Stadium.

“The reality is that there isn’t one doughnut occasion or audience,” explains Stuart Galbraith, category lead at sweet bakery manufacturer Baker & Baker. “Here you have a set of products that has evolved as a suitable option for almost any occasion and season.”

As such, ranges need to be versatile and accessible, although the diversification of the market naturally allows for this with “big box retailers offering a great range of products from more value-oriented lines through branded concessions, whilst independents utilise social media to disrupt and create a point-of-difference”, he adds.

A selection of fluffy doughnuts

Source: CSM Ingredients

CSM Ingredients has been a proud sponsor of National Doughnut Week since conception. As home to some of the UK and world’s most trusted bakery brands including the best doughnut mixes, CSM ingredients is delighted to be helping bakers produce the highest quality doughnuts for National Doughnut Week to help raise funds for the week’s charity, The Children’s Trust.

From traditional bakery to natural added value ingredients, each one of CSM Ingredients’ brands enhances its special heritage while being proud players in the food industry’s transformation. The Craigmillar brand has been an important part of UK baking industry for decades and is trusted by bakers across the UK, delivering classic and all-American style doughnuts and confectionery products directly to bakers.

It also produces a wide range of delicious fillings and toppings to help bakers deliver the highest quality end product from doughnuts to muffins, to celebration cakes and beyond. The wide and innovative range of products includes bakery fats, cake mixes, cream alternatives, ready-to-use icings, glazes, and mallows. Craigmillar guarantees great-tasting, versatile, and easy-to-use products every time. 

To find out more about CSM Ingredients and National Doughnut Week, visit the website here.