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February 11, 2002
Timmy or Kremey?
In December 2001, yet another American-based chain opened its first-of-many Canadian outlets. In this case, the chain is Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and it opened its first Canadian store in Mississauga (the doughnut capital of Canada, so I've been told).
So you're thinking, "OK, another doughnut chain. Big deal." Well, unlike Country Time or Robin's Doughnuts or any of the other Tim Hortons wannabes, Krispy Kreme elicits a fanatical doughnut following (as does Tim's for coffee). Doughnuts are all they do, and they do it well. So went the hype, anyways.
Apparently, it wasn't all hype. On opening day, the Mississauga store did sales of $70000 in the first HOUR. (Sure, that's Canadian dollars, but it's still impressive.) That comes out to an educated guesstimate of one hundred thousand doughnuts in the first hour of business; 1600 doughnuts a minute, 28 doughnuts a second. Yes, every SECOND they sold over two dozen doughnuts. People were leaving with dozens and dozens.
One friend of mine managed to sample a KK glazed doughnut, too. A co-worker of his was coming back from a Toronto call, swung by KK Mississauga and picked up 7 dozen for the company. From his account, however, only 6 dozen ever made it back, as he ate a full dozen himself on the hour ride home.
What the hell is in these doughnuts, crack? Missing BRE-X gold? American dollar bills? I had to find out.
My in-laws moved to California, just north of LA, a couple years ago. (I'll be sure to call Gidget on my next visit. I have a dental appointment apparently...) On our visit over the recent holidays, I decided to see if there was a local Krispy Kreme. Sure enough, right next to a Babies-R-Us. (Nine-month old, and Grammie's buying? You bet we're going.) I suggested a stop at KK, and they agreed. Who's going to turn down a doughnut run?
The first thing that struck me about KK is the doughnut making machinery, put in plain view - nay, on display - behind protective glass for all to see. In the 5 minutes that we were there, hundreds of doughnuts were fried on one side, flipped, fried on the other side, sent through the cascade of sugar glazing, and finally boxed up by the dozen for the many customers waiting for them.
We selected 6 of their traditional glazed doughnuts, two chocolate sprinkles, two green-and-red sprinkles (hey, it was Christmas) and two Boston Cream (or is that Boston Kreme?) for my wife. Not wanting to wait any longer, we immediately opened the box and each had a fresh, still-warm glazed doughnut. Wow. Let me tell you, the only similarity between Tim Hortons doughnuts and KK's is that they are fried and have a hole in the center.
Before I go any further, I'm going to brazenly assume that everyone reading this has tried a Tim Hortons doughnut. (Hopefully the ex-pats can remember what they were like.) For a fair comparison, think about a regular cake-y glazed doughnut, much like the chocolate glazed doughnut, but without the chocolate taste. No, not the one with the chocolate icing on top, the one with the frosting of sugar on the outside. That's your baseline. I believe Tim's calls it an Old Fashioned Glazed.
The first thing you'll notice about a KK glazed doughnut is that they are SOFT. Squishy, even. They are the antithesis of beef jerky; soft, smooth, and yielding (with no beef whatsoever). The doughnut collapses under the pressure needed just to hold it while you bite a wet, sugary piece off. Yes, the glaze is still wet, and very sticky.
The next thing you'll notice is that your doughnut is gone already. What happened? KK doughnuts are yeast doughnuts, meaning they're very light... and are almost not even there. Were it not for the glaze, they might float away. But due to this lightness, there's almost no substance to them, and they are quickly inhaled. (I guess this is how a dozen can disappear down one's gullet in under an hour.)
One rumour I heard on a newscast (the Mississauga opening was headline 6 o'clock news two days running in Ontario) was that KK doughnuts have twice the sugar and 30% more fat, which is what makes them so yummy. Finding that somewhat hard to believe, I looked up the nutritional information for both Krispy Kreme and Tim Hortons (warning, PDF files). As there are so many varieties to choose from, I picked only two: the glazed, and the blueberry filled. As it turns out, KK does have more fat, depending on the doughnut - between 20% and 100% more. They also have less protein (who cares?) and more sodium. As for sugar, well, if you ever see the glazing machine, you'll know they're loaded.
So, what does this all boil down to? Not a heck of a lot. If you like hot and soft and sweet, try a KK glazed on for size. They are very tasty. But if you're not a doughnut fanatic, you'll probably still be satisfied with Tim Hortons' array of offerings. It doesn't really matter... I believe there is room in Canada for both chains. If you think about it, what is Tim Hortons, really? It's a place that serves coffee and Timbits, the latter of which are not available at Krispy Kreme. And I don't think KK is going to be serving lunch anytime soon, either. A chain-to-chain comparison isn't really all that helpful. After all, you have to compare doughnuts to doughnuts.
P.S. In a seeming role reversal, Tim Hortons call their offering a "donut", whereas Krispy Kreme calls it a "doughnut", as I prefer. Interesting. I wonder if the etymology of the word has anything to do with "dough naught". Hmmm.
P.P.S. If Krispy Kreme were to bring out a product to compete with Timbits, what on earth would they call it? I don't think Krispy Ballz nor Kremy Ballz would sell very well.
P.P.P.S. Humble suggestion; an 18th question. "Tim Hortons donuts, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?"
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