The nation’s love of doughnuts is more ferocious than ever, and businesses are happy to cater to this appetite with new shops and new sweet treats.

For proof, take a look at Project D. The Derby-based business raised more than five times the amount it had targeted through a recent crowdfunding campaign, with more than £2m pledged to help the doughnut specialist grow in the coming years.

Canadian chain Tim Hortons, famed for its doughnuts, is also continuing its march across the UK, while homegrown Planet Doughnut has unveiled plans for expansion alongside up-and-coming business Harry’s Handcrafted Doughnuts. Health-conscious firm Urban Legend is also making a major play for the market as it looks to entice consumers with lower fat, sugar and calorie offerings.

Consumers are spoiled for choice with a growing number of outlets to purchase doughnuts from, each one with their own unique take on the classic sweet treat.

So, as National Doughnut Week – a celebration which sees bakers raise money for charity The Children’s Trust – gets underway, we explore the trends playing out on the UK’s doughnut scene:

Four fancy doughnuts in a box

Source: Donutelier by Roladin

Premiumisation pays

Think £6.50 for a single doughnut is too much? The frequent queue outside central London’s Donutelier by Roladin would disagree.

Said to offer the ‘most luxurious doughnuts London has ever seen’, the Israeli bakery and café group was inspired by the craftsmanship of the world’s greatest fashion ateliers. It looks to justify its top-end price points by ensuring customers can see every step of the handmade process (although the location on Charing Cross Road also helps).

Menu items include a doughnut filled with Chantilly cream and marbled pistachio, topped with an almond sable, pistachio nibs and dried raspberries, and the Pink Royal which is topped with wild berry cream with mini strawberry meringues, dried raspberries, and a raspberry Chantilly cream.

Exclusivity and social media influence are key levers to success in this environment

More firms, either doughnut specialists or high-end bakeries, are looking to tap into this market.

“On a recent food safari in London, we noted an evolving trend of small boutique and premium bakeries entering the category, and also many pop-up units in high footfall areas creating doughnuts at the very premium end of the market,” says Jon Adams, UK R&D director at sweet baked goods specialist Baker & Baker.

“Exclusivity and social media influence are key levers to success in this environment; visits to these types of establishments are more of an event or treat meaning price point isn’t a barrier.”

Obviously, not all doughnuts are reaching the £5-plus mark, but prices are creeping up as bakers get innovative with ingredients, flavours, and toppings.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen premiumisation across all areas of the sweet bakery category, with doughnuts being a key area for innovation,” notes Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager UK and Ireland at Dawn Foods. “A distinct differentiation has developed too between the classic sugar coated, jam-filled doughnut for everyday eating and American-style premium doughnuts of all shapes and sizes and every type of filling, toppings and decoration for treating and occasion eating.”

A person choosing a doughnut from a box of indulgent looking doughnuts

Source: Getty Images

A generation of doughnut lovers

So, what is fuelling this demand for premium doughnuts? In part, Gen Z and social media.

“These younger consumers, with their newly acquired spending power, have been brought up with social media so the products they buy, including food, must look as good as it tastes,” adds Passmore. According to the firm’s Bakery Survey Europe 2022, 72% of Gen Z consumers said that social media would influence their purchase of a sweet baked good.

“The fact that the current doughnut renaissance is being driven by hipster artisan bakery shops, using social platforms to drive brand awareness, is only fuelling their popularity among young consumers,” Passmore adds. “It’s a supermarket free zone too and for Gen Z, the individualism of the artisan bakery is important.”

The aforementioned Project D is one example of a doughnut brand fully utilising social media. Started by three millennials in 2018, the firm has amassed a loyal following of fans on TikTok, with some videos garnering millions of views. Its videos focus on doughnut production – with close-up action shots of free-flowing icing, sprinkles and other toppings being applied, before the doughnut is devoured on camera.

@project.doughnut Who are you sharing this doughnut pizza with 🍩🍕 #projectdoughnut #megadoughnuts #doughnutday ♬ That’s Life - Remastered 2008 - Frank Sinatra

Social media was also named as one of the main drivers of what Planet Doughnut founder and director Duncan McGregor identified as the top doughnut trends. These included “really trying to push the boundaries of what you can do with a doughnut” with “sizing them up, down or going to town on more eye-catching designs and flavours”. The main tactic online, he says, is to get a “reaction from your followers at the same time as trying to introduce new flavour combinations”.

Fabulous flavours

While there are undoubtedly weird and wonderful flavoured doughnuts available, many report familiar flavours delivered in new ways to be the ones capturing consumer attention.

“The main influences seem to be ‘the familiar’ – in a time of financial insecurity consumers are wanting to stick to what they know but with a twist,” believes Laura Hensley, marketing assistant at ADM Milling UK. “This is reflected on when it comes to flavours, consumers want something that they know and are comfortable with to create reassurance.”

But familiar doesn’t mean boring, particularly when doughnuts can be viewed as a “blank canvas”.

Doughnuts with different toppings including corn flakes, sprinkles and chocolate

Source: Planet Doughnut

Planet Doughnut’s McGregor points to the rise of its new bestselling doughnut – the Cookie Street. It’s described as a heady combination of Belgian chocolate filling with blue cookie dough flavoured icing, topped with Oreo and cookie dough pieces. It’s overtaken the Biscoff doughnut as the business’ top seller. McGregor also believes white hazelnut and pistachio are “making real inroads” in doughnuts this year.

Biscoff remains a bestseller for Project D in the form of its Biscoff Bad Boy doughnut alongside We Be Jammin’ (made with English raspberry heritage jam and a Jammie Dodger), Homer (a bright pink white chocolate smothered doughnut complete with sprinkles) and Red Velvet.

While a beautiful looking doughnut can lure shoppers in, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, according to Michael Schofield, marketing manager at British Bakels.

“The nation has developed a fascination with what’s inside,” he says. “Consumers love the element of surprise when biting into a doughnut filled with delicious filling.”

Seasonal limited editions offer another doughnut firms one way of pushing the boat out with minimal commitments. Strawberries & cream or piña colada for summer and toffee apple for autumn are among the seasonal suggestions by ADM Milling’s Hensley.

Doughnuts decorated to look like hot cross buns

Source: Crosstown

Crosstown’s hot cross bun doughnuts

Crosstown embraced the classic flavours of a hot cross bun for its Easter doughnuts and got innovative for Veganuary in the form a rhubarb & jasmine and strawberry cheesecake doughnuts.

“The importance of seasonality can’t be understated either as doughnuts are now a staple for Halloween and Valentine’s Day,” Baker & Baker’s Adams points out.

Cost-of-living pushes value to the fore

Doughnuts, in all their forms, are ultimately about delivering a treat – whether it’s a £5 special one for a day out or an everyday treat from the local supermarket.

“Consumption of sweet goods has migrated from something invoking guilt, to an outlet to inspire a ‘feel good’ moment and essential to a balanced lifestyle. And doughnuts are just that,” explains Michael Schofield, marketing manager at British Bakels.

“It is also worth being mindful of the cost-of-living crisis, which has made people think carefully about what we value and are prepared to spend our time and money on when it comes to trends,” he adds noting that doughnuts can help bakers navigate the balance between delivering value and meeting consumer expectations. “Although today’s shoppers are increasingly exploring money-saving strategies, they still want to enjoy new experiences and familiar pleasures.”

A stack of jam doughnuts

Source: Getty Images

Thankfully, doughnuts, particularly those sold by the supermarkets, are delivering familiar pleasures at achievable prices. Tesco, for example, sells a five-pack of jam doughnuts for £1.10 and a four-pack of white iced ring doughnuts for £1.30. Sainsbury’s is offering similar value for money with its five-packs of jam and custard filled doughnuts costing £1.

“Amongst retail shoppers, there continues to be a clear focus on seeking out value within the sweet bakery category and doughnuts are able to fulfil that need, thanks to lower levels of inflation in comparison to other competing categories,” adds Baker & Baker’s Adams. He notes that despite the rising cost of living and impact of high fast, salt and sugar (HFSS) restrictions on the category, volume performance is still strong in doughnuts.

And, while boutique businesses and artisan outlets are making waves, in-store bakery will remain the “engine room” of the category.


Doughnuts with whipped cream, chocolate and strawberries on top on a slate stand

Source: Baker & Baker

Take your doughnuts to the next level

Decorate our new improved Baker & Baker plain ring doughnuts for any occasion. Simply thaw, decorate and serve!

Ideal for classic sugar ring doughnuts

  • Defrost for 60-120 mins
  • Warm doughnuts in the oven at 160o C for approx. 5 mins
  • Simply roll in white caster sugar
  • OR why not try rolling in flavoured sugar eg cinnamon sugar for a different twist

Combine fruit & chocolate in this Brownie Delight doughnut

  • Defrost for 60-120 mins
  • Cut and fill with whipped cream
  • Spread the top with chocolate sauce
  • Top with broken brownie pieces & chopped strawberries

For real indulgence try a Millionaire doughnut

  • Defrost for 60-120 mins
  • Cover the top with a thin layer of caramel sauce
  • Decorate with crumbled shortbread pieces & chocolate chips
  • Drizzle with melted dark chocolate

For further ideas and tips please follow Baker & Baker on LinkedIn.