Kitchen Range Foods says research shows 20% of doughnuts never make it home. "More like, 20% of doughnuts never make it past the car park," says marketing manager Matt Godbold. "It’s all good news for doughnuts at the moment, more people are buying them and in larger quantities," he adds.

Kitchen Range Foods supplies donuts for supermarket own labels and into the foodservice market. In 2003, it launched its first branded product through a licence with Cadbury - Cadbury Mini Dipping Donuts - which has dominated the mini-donut sector.

"Bringing a major brand like Cadbury to in-store bakeries really helped to boost the section’s presence," says Godbold. "We effectively created a category through mini donuts, which didn’t exist a few years ago, and now it’s worth £9m in retail."

The 2,500m sq factory in Peterborough produces the entire donut range - 3,800 tonnes of donuts per year with about 65 employees - including mini and large ring donuts, mini balls and plain, sugared and coated donuts. It is part of the OSI Group, a $4bn global food business.

Sales of doughnuts tend to peak at Halloween and Easter; Christmas is not a good time because people are buying mince pies, according to Kitchen Range Foods, which brought out a special edition Halloween orange chocolate donut made to look like a pumpkin.

Its research also showed that more doughnuts are consumed towards the end of the week and that the biggest consumers of doughnuts are 6 to 24-year-olds and men over 65, but generally under-consumed by women.

"There’s a big gap in the market, suggesting an opportunity to attract new consumers with new ranges and products," says marketing executive Clare Mitchell.

"One of the ways we’re dealing with that is through branding, such as Cadbury, with a broad appeal. As soon as we put the branded products in the bakery we almost saw a new type of customer, more affluent and also more females."

Early in 2006, a new full-sized Cadbury Donut, covered in Cadbury milk chocolate and sprinkles, was launched. It was sold in a twin-pack at Tesco and Asda, while, at the same time, the Cadbury Mini Dipping Donut product saw a new format and packaging. The packs contain 10 miniature donuts and a pot of Cadbury milk chocolate dipping sauce.

Kitchen Range claims that the relaunch was such a huge success that product sales by volume have doubled.

Despite this, Kitchen Range Foods recognises that people are talking more about health and choice has grown dramatically.

"We are aware of the pull towards healthier food, but at the same time you don’t have a doughnut because you want to be healthy. I don’t think there will ever be such a thing as a healthy doughnut. It’s all about spoiling yourself and spoiling those you’re close to. The market shows no signs of decline."

Kitchen Range Foods claims doughnuts are showing the biggest growth in in-store bakeries at 13.5% - that’s almost 25m greater than the next biggest section, which is muffins.

The jam-filled doughnuts still remain the best-sellers in packs of 5 and 10. They are typically about 10p each when sold in multi-buys.

"You do get a lot of doughnuts for your money," says Godbold, "but we have found that other doughnuts are coming through, like the mini-ring chocolate-topped donut, which is one of the fastest-growing lines. Last year, only 4.2% of doughnut sales were branded and so we see a huge opportunity here."

Kitchen Range Foods makes donuts by using traditional American methods and the equipment at the factory was sourced from the US. The products are made by mixing a batter, which goes straight into a fryer and is cake-raised, as opposed to yeast-raised.

"It’s the best and simplest way of making a donut; I’ve not seen a yeast-raised mini," says factory manager Ross Macken. "We use authentic American machinery and open fryers, which is unusual. They are the most dangerous things in the factory. Insurance in factories is difficult at the best of times, but we have the best and the most expensive fire-extinguishing systems that money can buy. They are about 190ºC."

Kitchen Range Foods, as well as launching a new individually-wrapped full-size Cadbury donut, has many plans and predicts big things for the future of the donut. Currently, it is setting up trials with a major pub chain. With the smoking ban, pubs are worrying about loss of revenue, which makes food all the more important in such establishments.