Brits are going nuts for lavish doughnuts that command a premium price. What sort of flavours and fillings are winning over shoppers, and how can bakers tap such demand themselves?

Forget freakshakes and say ‘see ya’ to cupcakes, there’s a new over-the-top decadent dessert in town – doughnuts.

We’re not talking bog standard jam doughnuts here, think lavish brioche-style doughnuts topped with chocolate glaze and a bourbon biscuit, complete with injectable filling, such as the ones from Croydon’s Be Right Bake. Or how about a chocolate extravaganza covered in chocolate glaze, a Nutella drizzle, chocolate brownie, red and white sprinkles and a mini jar of Nutella from London’s Doughnut Time?

Shoppers are paying top dollar for these premium creations – Doughnut Time’s products come in at £4-plus per item,
while Be Right Bake’s decorated doughnuts are sold by the dozen for £32.

So what makes a doughnut worth coughing up the dough for? And what trends, formats and flavours are wowing customers in search of premium treats?

“Doughnuts are going through a renaissance,” says Jacqui Passmore, Dawn Foods’ marketing manager UK and Ireland. “Consumers are trading up from commodity ‘five in a bag’ doughnuts to premium doughnuts with indulgent fillings, toppings and decorations to satisfy their desire for luxury and ‘me time’. Individual treating or treating friends, family or colleagues is all part of today’s culture of ‘accessible luxury’.

“Offering fresh new flavours that create a product consumers can’t buy anywhere else will boost sales and appeal to consumers looking for a premium product.”

Unique creations are at the core of the UK’s growing independent doughnutteries such as Crosstown Doughnuts, Dum Dum Donutterie and Doughnut Time. “The great thing about doughnuts is that there are endless flavour possibilities,” says JP Then, co-founder and director of Crosstown Doughnuts, which has sites across London, including Camden Market. Popular flavours, notes Then, include Chocolate Truffle, Cinnamon Scroll and Peanut Butter & Berry.

And, like other bakery items, doughnuts can be given a seasonal twist. “For our seasonal offering we like to experiment with different combinations that wouldn’t be considered typical doughnut flavours, and incorporate ingredients that aren’t traditionally found in the UK like Beetroot Lemon-Thyme, Blood Orange, Boysenberry & Apple, Matcha and Yuzu & Passionfruit,” Then adds.

This extends far beyond Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day. Crosstown celebrated Australia Day with Tim Tam and Lamington doughnuts, Chinese New Year with Pandan & Coconut and New Zealand’s Waitangi Day with a Hawkes Bay Black Doris Plum option.

“Non-traditional toppings and fillings such as Earl Grey, banana malt, pear clove, espresso cardamom and Nutella capture consumers’ imaginations and presents an offering that bakers can command a higher price for,” says British Bakels marketing manager Michael Schofield.

In the world of doughnuts anything can be a topping, from cereals to brownies, Mars bars and Marks & Spencer’s Percy Pig, offering bakers opportunities for weird and wonderful combinations.

There is even a niche market for savoury doughnuts emerging. Soboro Bakery, for example, offers a Ham & Cheddar Cheese Doughnut as well as a chicken curry one. London restaurant The Duck & Waffle, meanwhile, offers a Spicy Ox Cheek Doughnut served with apricot jam and smoked paprika sugar. And supermarket Morrisons is getting in on the action with Made to Share BBQ Chicken Doughnuts.

“From smoky bacon to salt and vinegar, some supermarkets have recently launched savoury donuts and we believe high street bakers are set to follow suit,” says Passmore.

Taking this one step further, some restaurants use doughnuts as burger buns, building on sweet and savoury flavours with combinations of glazed doughnuts and fried chicken.

For many consumers, this is too far out of their comfort zone, so sweet will probably dominate for the foreseeable future.
“Consumers want more sophisticated and exciting flavours while at the same time noting that essence of nostalgia; combining the cosy and familiar with an innovative or exotic twist,” believes Jason Jobling, head baker at Warrens Bakery which has recently added salted caramel and banoffee doughnuts to its range.

There is also room to mix things up when it comes to the dough. The Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, is well established in bakeries since its invention by Dominique Ansel in 2013. Cronut-style ‘Cros’ comprise nearly half of Dum Dum Donutterie’s range, with variants including The Zebra, Galaxy and Cronutella. And, Dum Dum’s doughnuts are baked, not fried.

“Current doughnut trends are for baked not fried doughnuts and innovative flavour combinations, often with a nod to dessert favourites, with flavours such as lemon meringue pie, peanut butter, crème brûlée and toffee apple,” says Orchard Valley Foods’ marketing manager Louise Liddiard. “Salted caramel is still a hot trend too.”

Other bakery items offer food for thought, notes Schofield: “Inspiration can be taken from bread, with sourdough doughnuts becoming popular, and exciting toppings and fillings such as cinnamon sugar & strawberry and apple pie cream filling.”

For more inspiration, turn to social media which has played a significant part in the cult-like following of premium doughnuts. After all, with the right toppings they make for the perfect post. “Premium doughnuts that are ‘Instagrammable’ provide a powerful form of advertising for bakeries, encouraging customers’ friends and family to also visit,” Schofield adds.

All in all, premium doughnuts offer a great way to plug a hole in any bakery portfolio. With National Doughnut Week fast approaching (12-19 May), bakers doughnut want to miss out.

Say it with doughnuts

Doughnuts’ rise to fame knows no bounds – they are now taking the place of celebration cakes and cupcakes at birthday parties and making an appearance at weddings.

“Premium indulgence and extravagance is a big trend for 2018 and for doughnuts this could include celebration cakes such as an elaborately decorated doughnut tower, a giant doughnut cake or an impressive ‘doughnut wall’, which are becoming extremely popular for weddings. They are affordable, easy to serve and guests can be offered a variety of different flavours,” says Isabel Sousa, category marketing director, doughnuts, muffins and cakes at CSM Bakery Solution.

Doughnut walls are, literally, a wall of doughnuts. They comprise pegs with ring doughnuts hanging on them, often in a variety of colours and toppings. When it comes to weddings, they make a fun background for the inevitable myriad of Instagram posts.

David Ferguson, head baker and owner of Be Right Bake, has high hopes for the future of doughnuts. “Doughnuts will overtake the cupcake market,” he says. “This is why we decided to market our doughnuts as the perfect treat for both adults’ and children’s parties and other events. They really are a great conversation starter because they’re so different.”

Unlike other vendors, Be Right Bake only sells doughnuts in boxes designed for sharing – a dozen doughnuts or 15 mini ones – rather than individually.

Small doughnuts also offer opportunities at events as well as in the snacking market. Crosstown Doughnuts offers dough bites – mini filled doughnuts – while Canadian chain Tim Horton’s, which recently launched in UK, sells Timbits – bite-sized morsels of its traditional doughnuts – in snack packs.

Bite-sized treats also work well for dipping or as decoration on more elaborate baked goods.

Recipe: Caramel Popcorn ’Nut

Dawn Premium Raised
Donut Mix, 2,000g
Fresh yeast, 100g
Water, 980g
Dawn Glossy Icing – Caramel
Caramel popcorn

1. Add the Dawn Premium Raised Donut Mix, fresh yeast and water to a spiral mixer and mix for two minutes on slow speed and then 10-15 minutes on fast speed.
2. Cover dough, rest for 10 mins.
3. Sheet out to 9-10mm thick.
4. Cut out using a ring doughnut cutter.
5. Proof for 40-50 minutes at 38°C/85% RH.
6. Allow to air dry for 10 mins.
7. Fry for 1 min on each side at 185°C, then allow to cool.
8. Heat Glossy Icing to 35-45°C.
9. Dip tops of the doughnuts in glossy icing and place caramel-flavoured popcorn on top.
10. Finish off with a drizzle of the heated Caramel Glossy Icing.