Looks like the R&D team (or their consultants) at Dunkin’ Brands (Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robins, Togo’s) have been hard at work reworking their ingredients. Hopefully this won’t be too much of a burden on the franchisees and no new equipment or costlier ingredients will be required.
About 400 locations nationwide that took part in a four-month test already have made the switch to a new blend of palm, soybean and cottonseed oils. That includes all restaurants in New York City and Philadelphia, which are forcing restaurants to phase out their use of artery-clogging trans fat.
The ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins, another unit of Dunkin’ Brands Inc., plans to be zero grams trans fat by Jan. 1.
Dunkin’ isn’t positioning its namesake product as health food – a shift that would involve more disbelief suspension than might be possible for a treat synonymous with portly, doughnut-gobbling Homer from television’s “The Simpsons.”
“The goal was not to make a healthy doughnut, it was really to create a doughnut that was better,” said Joe Scafido, Dunkin’s chief creative and innovation officer. “Certainly, we did not create a healthy doughnut.”
This past spring, hundreds of restaurants began taking part in a test to gauge customer reaction to the blend that Dunkin’ ultimately selected. Managers at participating stores were split into two groups, with one receiving conventional cooking oil, the other receiving the experimental oil, and neither group knowing which type they received. Dunkin’ closely watched sales and customer response at restaurants with the experimental oil.
“We got no negative consumer feedback, and we sold 50 million doughnuts in that time,” Scafido said.
What are Dunkin’ Donuts’ competitors up to with the fat?
Dunkin’ is ahead of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., which has yet to roll out a zero gram trans fat doughnut but hopes to do so. Brian Little, a spokesman for the North Carolina-based chain, said, “We continue to work aggressively with outside supply partners, and our goal is to get to zero trans fatty acids while maintaining great Krispy Kreme taste.”
A call seeking comment from another chain, California-based Winchell’s Donut House, wasn’t immediately returned.
Starbucks Corp., Dunkin’s Seattle-based rival in the coffee shop niche, said in May that it would cut artificial trans fats out of its food and drink by year’s end in stores in the continental U.S., Alaska and Canada.
Dunkin’s announcement follows about four years of research of more than 28 alternative cooking oils and proprietary blends.
If nothing else, this will result in much FREE puclicity for Dunkin’ Donuts…being one of the first movers in a healthy trend does have its advantages.