Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Donuts, Donuts, Donuts

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:

  1. Work in the machine

  2. Be smaller and lighter

  3. Be Soy free

  4. 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.


bkmhtwitchell said...

I love ALL of kinnikinnick's products!! I wish my local wal-mart would get on the "band-wagon" and start selling your products! I know this post was about your donuts (the old ones were very yummy and I'm sure the new ones are as well!)...but I was wondering if Kinnikinnick will ever try producing a Poptart (toaster pastry)? I've had Celiac my whole life (well - since 18 mo. old)...and there are just some things I've always wanted to be able to eat (much of which, your company has helped me with). Poptarts and licorice are two things I would LOVE to be able to eat w/out paying the consequences later on. Any thoughts on this?

JayB said...

Poptarts? This is the third request I've had for Poptarts this week. Sometimes I wonder if there is some kind of communal GF consciousness.

I've been wanting to do a toaster pastry for several years now. They are on our list but they have a pretty high capital requirement for the equipment. And, of course, none of the existing equipment available to make these would work with GF dough. We'll keep you posted.

FYI, There are quite a few gluten free licorices available. Check out some of the online GF stores.

bkmhtwitchell said...

That's too funny about all the poptart requests!

Really??? GF licorice?! I'll definitely have to look for it!

I just needed to complain a second... now that I know you actually read the comments! :o) I ordered a bunch of KinniToos in hopes of having them for a presentation I'm doing tomorrow on Celiac Disease (for my Anatomy class). I was SO sad that they haven't arrived yet. I'm willing to bet they come tomorrow - AFTER my class. Why does it take so long to throw some packages into a box and mail it? Just wondering.

JayB said...

You can track your order by entering your order number here

I had a look at our order system based on your blogger user name and it looks like your order was shipped yesterday and is already out for delivery in your city.

Rather than post the hows and whys of our shipping procedures, I think I'll do up a new post as it probably will be seen by more people. I read the comments but I'm not sure who else does. Look for it today or tomorrrow or subscribe to the RSS feed.

bkmhtwitchell said...

haha! Thanks! Yeah - I got the package hour after my class got out and my presentation was over. But I'm seriously considering taking the "oreos" in tomorrow. If I kept 6 packages of them around my house - I'd eat them!! ah! And that's the last thing I need added onto my weight. But thanks for the info on the tracking. I'll remember that in the future. I think I just confused the date in my confirmation email - thinking it was the date I'd be receiving the package...but I think that it was the date it was being shipped. Anyway... thanks for the reply - the kinnitoos are wonderful!!

JayB said...

June 19 Update:

A nice comment on our new donuts

Healthy Food said...

I love your donuts. two thumbs up for it :)

Amanda @ A Few Short Cuts said...

I blogged about these! They were super!

Aldonator said...

yo kinnikinnicks!

so, check this out. My girlfriend recently had to go through a detox. no dairy, wheat or egg (she tested fairly high for egg as well as the others). As you can imagine, this was not an easy diet. She has since stopped eating this way as her allergies appear to have subsided (at least temporarily anyway). However, I have become sensitized to how much awful tasting gluten free junk exists out there. Poor girl tried so many GF products that were just awful. Whenever I got to the grocery store, I keep seeing these Vanilla glazed donuts in the box and they seem to be calling out to me lol. I LOVE me some donuts (krispy kreme to be exact) but they are an absolutely atomic bomb for the body (I recently learned that most donuts are made with "seaded" oil - that is, oil that has been used by other fast food restaurants first. apparently, donuts dont taste good with clean/new oil - blech). I am fairly health conscious so this leaves me in a pickle. I was so sure that I would simply be out 6-7 bucks (given my previous GF experiences) that I never tried your donuts. Finally, I texted myself your company name, did a little Googlage and voila! here I am! After having read several other reviews, I wanted to tell you that I cant wait to try them! I am going to go later today and get some and am extremely pleased that they are soy free as well (I personally only care about the gluten and soy). in case anyone reading this doesnt know it, soy contains estrogen like substances (google for a more scientific essplanation) : ) so, the whole point is that I CAN eat whatever I want but I now WANT to eat your product! I am realistic and dont expect krispy kreme but if they are tasty, I would be pumped to be able to ditch all that nasty nasty NASTY trans fat (which should be illegal). So, THANK YOU! ahead of time. : ) and if I am any indication of what will happen regarding mainstream reaction to your foods, well.....better get some more donut machines : )