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Consumers enjoy posting photos of visually appealing food, and they typically get a lot of “likes” from other people who enjoy looking at it and want to try it. Today’s trendy donuts seem to be particularly photogenic. In fact, #donut has been used more than 3 million times on Instagram.

“We are very proud of our donut heritage and the ability for our donuts to make people smile,” said Rick Golden, manager of donut excellence at Dunkin’, Canton, Mass. “Our guests love to talk about and take pictures of them and post online about their favorite flavor.”

The way a donut is presented in stores or online can be what draws a consumer to purchase a new style and flavor and can set a bakery apart from others. Creativity with detail is key. 

In the summer, consumers line up for limited-edition pineapple, strawberry and lemon donuts, and in the fall, they follow the pumpkin and apple aroma coming from the bakeries. Specific holidays bring even more colors and flavors: bright green rings for St. Patrick’s Day, an American flag design in July, pie-inspired donuts around Thanksgiving and reindeer during Christmas.

Occasions like these allow bakeries to get more creative than usual and give consumers an uncharacteristic product to look forward to tasting and sharing. Seasonal flavors such as pumpkin saw growth in 2019, said Sally Lyons-Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader, IRI.

LaMar’s Donuts and Coffee, Centennial, Colo., discovered that its limited-edition Pumpkin Spice Cake Donut and Apple Spice Cake Donut have increased in popularity in recent years. The company also changes the colors of its glaze to match holidays and events such as National Donut Day in June, which gives LaMar’s its highest sales, said Temi Osifodunrin, director of marketing and advertising, LaMar’s.

Dots Original from Europastry, Barcelona, Spain, has become a star product of the international company, which taps into the enthusiasm by offering a range of holiday flavors.

“We develop different commercial and marketing strategies so that this movement and rotation are active,” said Carolina Moré, marketing director USA, Europastry. “We have Dots Originals adapted to holidays such as Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and Easter.”

Holidays and other celebrations are when the company’s sales are the highest, Mr. Golden noted.

“Every so often, we surprise our guests with an exciting, limited-time offering,” he said.

Dunkin’s Holiday Brownie Crumble Donut, which featured a vanilla frosted yeast ring that’s been dipped in brownie crumbles and drizzled with dark green icing, was offered during Christmas and New Year’s this past year.

Bakeries should also pay attention to pop culture.

“While it’s important to be creative and unique, it’s also important to tap into trends to ensure your creations are relative to consumers,” said Phil DeWester, senior director category marketing, Dawn Foods.

For the final season of Game of Thrones, Off Beat Donuts, Dublin, launched new products in Ireland, including The Jam Snow, The Night King and Red Wedding Red Velvet. The treats also included eye-catching designs of characters and themes.

During football season, go with some team colors or football designs. Perhaps a certain type of animal or fruit is trending; then create it with a donut. Stand for a cause with the use of donut lettering or colors. Even if a bakery can’t offer a limited-time product for that trend, a visually appealing social media post can still achieve the memorable photo consumers are looking for from companies.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on donut trends, click here.