Should You Pay $5 for a Donut?

Slapping “artisanal” in front of a type of food often means quadrupled prices. From bread to chocolate to soap, adding an adjective indicating “small batch” and “homemade” triggers buyers (myself included) to hand over the extra money.  While sometimes I think it is a marketing hoax (no I shouldn’t be paying $10 for one scoop of ice cream), sometimes it’s warranted.  

Donuts are one such treat that range from being $1 at Dunkin Donuts to $5 at specialty shops. 

Dunkin’ has mastered mass production of their product to keep costs low by freezing the donuts to ship out to franchises for maximum profits.  Krispy Kreme came into the market as a game changer, offering freshly fried donuts for $1.09.  When that red hot light comes on indicating a fresh batch, you know you are in for a treat.  Both chains have standard flavors, like glazed and sprinkled, which also keeps costs low because flour, oil, yeast, and sugar are cheap. 

A boom in the “artisanal” donut has taken the US by storm (even my tiny home town of Staunton has specialty donuts), and buying a dozen can easily set you back $50.    Is the price worth it?

First and foremost, the key to a fantastic donut is freshness. Any business that has to have a completely new inventory every day is going to have higher costs than a longer shelf-life competitor.  Selling fresh product requires skilled bakers to show up at the crack of dawn and lost profit if there is left over product.    Accounting for the increased labor and product cost, it makes sense that fancy donuts are more expensive.

Yet, Krispy Kreme is the definition of fresh without the price tag…

Krispy Kreme, however, does not have unique donut concepts that required lord knows how many hours of baking trial and error.  It also has product that requires cheap, basic ingredients and machine operated fryers that keep product and labor costs lower than specialty shops.   

Doughnut Plant is a prime example of uniquely designed circles (and squares!) of joy that blow cheap competitors out of the water.  While the shop offers classic yeast and baked options, it has gone above and beyond with filled cake, filled square, and doughseeds (fancy filled donuts) to change the doughnut game.

On a recent trip, I tried out a couple to see if it was worth the price tag.  The $3.95 filled carrot cake was superb.  Raisins, nuts, and spices create a delicious foundation that is moist and doesn’t crumble. The perfect amount of cream cheese filling enhances the flavor of the cake portion and provides added moistness.   Normal filled donuts have a heap of jelly or cream in the center, making it difficult to get the perfect bite every time, and they usually result in messy hands or, in my case, globs of goo on my pants. Doughnut Plant, however, created the filled donut so the filling goes around the whole ring, making each bite perfect.

I also tried the $4.25 peanut butter and jam filled square.  The massive yeast donut has a tart jam filling and a salty, crunchy peanut butter coating making for a sweet/slightly savory treat that tastes like an elevated PP&J.  It’s one of the best doughnuts I’ve had!

Both donuts are inventive, fresh, and have long ingredient lists that well exceed a standard Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ donut.  

So, to answer the original question, yes.  I think paying more for a quality “artisanal” donut is absolutely worth it.  My money is going towards freshness, creativity, and a kick-ass dessert, and I’d pick one Doughnut Plant doughnut over 4 Dunkin’ donuts any day. 

And remember, stay frugal.

Ps.  I went through a crisis of “donut” vs “doughnut”…… comment email with your thoughts on the debate!

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