With National Doughnut Week well under way, Britain’s love of doughnuts is blossoming.
Luckily for doughnut fans everywhere, the nation’s doughnut purveyors do their utmost to serve up on-trend, often over-the-top treats year-round.
Here we explore the current trends in the market and a couple to look out for in the future.
Veganism booms but gluten-free remains untapped
Indulgent food is an important part of the growing vegan movement and doughnuts are no exception.
“Veganism is showing no sign of slowing down especially in London where we’ve seen a surge in vegan outlet openings. There really is a whole vegan community to serve in London and in the UK,” says Doughnut Time’s chief doughnut designer Lara Thompson.
It’s now commonplace for doughnut specialists to have vegan options on their menu – Doughnut Time has seven, including the Ice Ice Bae Bae with vanilla buttercream, cookie pieces, chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate chips, as well as the Mega doughnut Chris Hemsworthy, which is a red velvet doughnut, topped with cookies and cream frosting, cookie pieces and chocolate drizzle.
London’s Crosstown Doughnuts even went as far to open an entirely vegan store in March 2018, serving up its nine-strong range of vegan doughnuts (pictured above).
But while veganism thrives, gluten-free flies under the radar on the UK’s doughnut scene.
“We recently took a trip to New York in the name of research and were blown away by the range of gluten-free dessert options on offer; gluten-free bases are definitely going to be a focus of ours as we look to develop our range even further,” adds Thompson.
But those looking to tap into the gluten-free market face a number of challenges, as Campden BRI bakery technologist Laura Sherwood explains.
“The difficulties with manufacturing gluten-free yeasted doughnuts, from a manufacturing point of view, is the investment required to facilitate a completely gluten-free environment,” she says. “This may be something which doughnut manufacturers do not see the immediate need for, as the demand for gluten-free doughnuts is not as great as the need for staple foodstuffs such as bread.”
There’s also the recipe to consider. Sherwood notes that gluten-free cake doughnuts, made with a sweetened leavened dough, often have a runny batter and can be difficult to form without the use of moulds or freezing before baking.
What’s more, gluten-free doughnuts often contain much higher levels of starch than standard ones, which can impact doughnuts’ already short one- to two-day shelf life.
“With standard doughnuts, manufacturers will add crumb softeners to help keep the product fresh for longer. These ingredients are targeted at the starch components in the doughnut, which retrograde (or recrystallise) after a certain amount of time, forming a firm, undesirable texture. The higher levels of starch in gluten-free doughnuts can increase the speed of staling and therefore the levels of crumb softening ingredients may need to be reformulated/increased, which could have a cost implication,” Sherwood explains.
Sweet and salty is a sweet combination
Bacon and maple syrup, fried chicken and waffles and, of course, salted caramel – sweet and savoury are a match made in heaven – particularly when they are combined on a doughnut.
“America is huge for sweet and savoury menu items and the UK is following suit,” notes Thompson. “Pairing sweet items with savoury items seems the most popular way to approach this flavour combo, such as pairing a burger with two glazed doughnuts in replacement of traditional buns.”
Doughnut Time tapped into this with its Pancake Day creation ‘Ya Bacon Me Crazy’, which featured a maple glaze, topped with maple candied bacon pieces.
Some have taken it even further, as British Baker explored in a piece on savoury doughnuts for last year’s National Doughnut Week. What is evident from this is that the setting has a big part to play in their success – the average doughnut shopper is most likely looking for a sweet treat. But pitched as a starter on a menu or used in place of a burger bun could tempt some consumers in.
“We’ve tried a jerk chicken doughnut with Levi Roots Reggae Reggae sauce and it was to die for,” says Duncan McGregor, director at Shropshire-based Planet Doughnut.
“Our maple and bacon doughnut was also popular but we could tell the reaction from our social media that the general public wasn’t quite ready for it in Shropshire.”
Throwing shapes in the doughnut world
Round will always be in style when it comes to doughnuts, but some people are looking to push the boundaries with fun new shapes, be it a square, a dinosaur or an avocado.
“Shaped doughnuts, including gingerbread men and animals, are on the rise,” notes Isabel Sousa, category marketing director, doughnuts, muffins & cakes at CSM Bakery Solutions.
They’re gaining traction as well. According to British Baker’s latest Bakery Market Report, the heart-shaped doughnut was Krispy Kreme’s top piece of NPD for 2018 with it returning (albeit upside down) for the 2019 Easter collection in the form of a bunny bum.
Wembley-based Longboys is also looking to shake up the doughnut scene with its brioche finger doughnuts inspired by high-end patisserie. “Long doughnuts are traditional in England, but people don’t identify with them quite as much as round ones,” says Longboys director/chef Heather Kaniuk.
Other examples of shaped doughnuts can be seen in Nottingham-based Doughnotts, which has created avocado, aubergine and even Star Wars’ Yoda-shaped treats. Temple Coffee Leeds, meanwhile, has whipped up angular doughnuts in the form of triangles.
Dirty doughnuts rake in the dough
Bigger is better in doughnut land as the likes of Doughnut Time, Planet Doughnut and even Asda capitalise on the trend for loading treats on top of treats.
“Adding all kinds of chocolate bars and sweets to a doughnut really gives it something extra; it not only doubles in size, it gets a flavour, texture and colour boost, all helping to ensure it flies off the shelf,” says Doughnut Time’s Thompson.
Branded is the name of the game when it comes to these toppings – imitations won’t cut it, and for good reason. “Everyone has a favourite chocolate bar, so when they see a doughnut with their go-to chocolate on top, they can’t resist it,” she adds.
In the case of Doughnut Time this also allows for a spot of creativity when it comes to naming them. The Bueno Mars (pictured), a play on singer Bruno Mars, is one of its best-sellers, featuring a hazelnut cream filling, milk and dark chocolate glaze with Nutella, wafer and Kinder Bueno pieces.
When it comes to biscuits, Lotus Biscoff and Oreos are the champions of doughnut toppings.
“One of our most popular doughnuts at the moment is the Salted Biscoff, which is a rich caramel icing, dunked in Lotus crumb and filled with a thick salted caramel and topped with the remaining Lotus biscuit,” notes Planet Doughnut’s McGregor.
But that’s not to say the humble custard cream doesn’t get a look in. They also feature atop a Planet Doughnut creation as does the fashionably retro Jammie Dodger and even Hobnobs.