C’mon Krispy Kreme, donate your misshapen doughnuts
I don’t like admitting this because it undermines my hipster cred, but my favorite doughnut is a Krispy Kreme original glazed.
I don’t know exactly why that is. I know Krispy Kreme has really mastered the thin-doughnut style, and it’s much better than the bulbous doughnuts you find in grocery stores. It could also be nostalgia at play, though.
When I was a kid, my friends and I would ride our bikes through Puyallup. If we timed it right and the “Hot Now” sign was lit up when we arrived, we got free doughnuts. Krispy Kreme apparently no longer offers these freebies and the Puyallup Krispy Kreme location was later replaced with a Panera Bread. I have no evidence to suggest these two events are connected.
Regardless of why I feel loyal to the chain, I’m feeling the urge to jump ship after something I witnessed over the weekend.
I visited the Krispy Kreme location in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood on Sunday. The doughnut machine was running at full steam and pumping out my favorite: the original glazed. For some reason, an irregular doughnut caught my eye. It looked like two doughnuts squashed together. I noticed it early on the conveyor belt, and I got emotionally invested. I wanted to know what happened to the little weirdo.
The doughnut made it through the frying, the flip, the glazing and the cooling process. It looked funky but totally edible. Then things took a turn. A woman at the end of the conveyor belt just took the abnormal doughnut, crumpled it up, and let it slide into a green waste bin.
I was honestly dismayed. I know it’s irrational, but I had started to anthropomorphize the deformed doughnut in my head. It had done nothing wrong to deserve such a fate. I also realized this process was getting repeated with other doughnuts, no matter how small their imperfections.
It just seemed wasteful. The only thing wrong with these doughnuts was they weren’t aesthetically pleasing to look at. I was still totally willing to eat them. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.
I reached out to Krispy Kreme. A manager at the SoDo location told me it’s company policy to compost any doughnuts that don’t attain “the Krispy Kreme standard.”
This might seem like such a minor transgression, so what they throw away dozens of donuts every day? But it’s a microcosm of a much bigger issue: food waste. When it comes to produce, The Guardian reports Americans throw away nearly as much food as they eat.
What’s even weirder about Krispy Kreme’s brazenness on this, I couldn’t find any other doughnut shop in the area that does the same thing. And I asked a lot of them.
Top Pot co-founder Mark Klebeck said in an email any doughnuts with “imperfections in size/shape” are donated to Northwest Harvest.
I called Legendary Doughnuts, a chain with locations in Tacoma, Federal Way, and Lake Tapps. An employee told me their process is similar. They donate all abnormal doughnuts to a food bank, although which one depends on the franchise location.
Jeremy Price with General Porpoise told me they offer any irregular doughnuts to their staff.
A spokesperson for Mighty-O Donuts, a shop with multiple locations in Seattle, told me they don’t end up with a lot of misshapen donuts but when they do they pass them off to nonprofits and food banks.
My favorite response came from Shannon Paul at The Original House of Donuts in Tacoma. She wrote in an email “we make our own dough, roll it out and hand cut the donuts. We hand fry the donuts too. And while I would love to boast about how every donut looks exactly right, I can’t do that. Because the truth is, they are each unique. Each twist, each bacon maple bar, and every glazed donut has its own look. That’s what makes us perfectly imperfect. Sometimes a few are just a little too crazy, even for us, but they still taste great, so we cut them into samples to share with customers.”