We've been hearing from some of you about the changes we recently made to our donuts. A gratifying number of emails have been positive.
"I just purchased your Cinnamon Donuts and I L-O-V-E-D them. I could not tell the difference from regular flour."
"I've always bought a lot of your products. Now I've tried your new and improved Cinnamon Sugar Donuts. Oh my gosh, they are so FANTASTIC."
"What a heavenly find in your vanilla frosted and cinnamon sugar doughnuts."
"Wow, great Donuts. I tried your maple glazed donuts today and they were terrific"
I say gratifying because we knew we'd upset some people when we made the changes, and we did. We do not make changes to any of our products without some pretty good reasons. I'd like to let you in on just why we would "mess with something that already had rave reviews"
One person's snack is another's meal
Rave reviews aside, the number one comment about the donuts that we had from people over the last number of years has been, "they're really good but they're too big and too heavy." It's always been our intention to lighten them up and make them smaller. Until recently we did not have the ability to do this, which I'll explain in a bit. When we were in a position to provide the smaller donut, we were reasonably sure that the majority of people would be pleased. One of the things that surprised us after we made the changes was the number of people who were using our donuts as meal replacements and were disappointed by the donuts not being as filling as they used to be. Frankly, we never considered this to be an issue when developing the new formulation. In all the focus group testing we did, this never came up as an issue. From our perspective, based on extensive customer feedback over 10 years, the whole point to the resizing was to make the donuts -less- filling.
Popularity can be a problem.
There's no question. Our old donuts were popular. So popular, that demand for them almost forced us to discontinue them. How is that possible you ask? It's pretty simple when you realize that every single one of those old donuts was cut by hand (actually twice because of the hole). Over the last 10 years, we tried every possible way of automating the production. We had donut "experts" from Belshaw (one of the world's largest donut equipment manufacturers) spend almost a week with us because they were 100% sure they could help us. They left shaking their heads, doubtful we'd ever find a piece of equipment that would work with our dough. (In fact they were right in a way... more on that later). The only way we were ever successful was to cut them, one at a time, by hand. The dough was so hard to work with that we couldn't even design a hand cutter that would do the donut and the hole at the same time. So, one person would cut the donut round and pass it to the next person, who would cut the hole. We did this about 1.5 million times last year. And the year before. And the year before that.
Supply and demand
The fact that we've made about the same number of donuts every year for the last 3 years tells you one of two things. We've either reached a market demand plateau and everyone who wants to buy our donuts is buying them. Or we've reached our production capacity. Anyone who knows anything about the exploding gluten free market demand will know it was certainly not the former. Any one who talks to our distributors or our retailers will know for sure that is the latter. Demand for donuts was many, many times what we could hope to supply. Distributors, retailers and consumers were all becoming quite unhappy with the situation. Distributors and retailers have fairly short tolerances for -shorts-, shortages in their orders. All of partners have been very accommodating and we REALLY appreciate everyones patience. However there are limits and we began to receive warnings about delisting of products. Faced with the decision of having the donuts become widely UNavailable or making some changes, we knew it was time to act. In mid 2007, we purchased some highly specialized donut equipment, which based on our experience, had the best chance of working for us. It was immediately apparent that our existing formulation was not going to work, even with this specialized equipment. It was time to make the change.
The Long and Donut-y Road.
In August of 2007, we began work on a new formulation which would:
Work in the machine
Be smaller and lighter
Be Soy free
Work in the machine
After almost 6 months of development, we finally had a formulation we were happy with. Throughout this period we did focus group testing with customers who shop at our local retail store here in Edmonton and our staff of over 170 people. By the middle of February, we had our final formulation. And it worked in the machine. Now all we had to do was make enough to fill all the initial orders, which were huge. We worked around the clock, 7 days a week for almost 4 weeks and the machine ran pretty much continuously for that whole time. In that first month, we made almost as many donuts as we had made the previous 6 months. Demand problem solved? Not quite. Even with this huge increase in production, the new packaging and popularity of the reformulation means we've seen demand grow even more. We're currently looking adding a second line. Sigh.
I'll continue this in a future post.