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August 19, 2013

Flash in the Frying Pan or The Next Breakfast Sensation?


If you really want to know what makes America great, look no further than the Cronut™. The Cronut™, a hybrid of a croissant and a donut, has folks lining up at 5 a.m. for a crack at one of the 200 Cronuts™ produced daily in a New York City bakery. Even celebrities like Hugh Jackman aren’t allowed to jump the line.

In true American spirit, other chefs are rushing to crack the secret baking code of Chef Dominique Ansel, who found a way to deep fry croissant-like dough without losing the layers of flakiness. Ansel may have trademarked his product, but that hasn’t stopped a slew of imitators from producing everything from the “doissant” to a homemade version using Pillsbury crescent roll dough.

With every chef worth his salt rushing out his or her own version of the Cronut™ to the market, what does this say about we the people and all our good intentions to eat healthy? “It says that we love our indulgences,” says Mary Lee Chin, a registered dietician and national media consultant on health and nutrition trends.

The Cronut™ taps into a deep part of the American psyche, says Chin. “We love new and different and trendy, particularly if it’s limited in number. Everyone wants to be part of the ‘in crowd,’ one of the people who can get it, whatever it is. Imagine if you had company for dinner and you pulled out a dozen Cronuts™. You’d say, ‘look what I got,” and it gives you status.”

But anyone who remembers waiting in line for a certain “hot” sign to flash at Krispy Kreme, knows that the Cro-nut sensation will likely be short-lived. “The novelty wears off,” says Chin, “something new comes along, and the person starts making more of the product to satisfy demand. Ironically that works against them, because if it’s easy to get, it’s not hot anymore.”

But there’s another piece to this Cronut™ phenomenon as well. Despite all the talk about healthy eating, why does it seem that the next greatest thing always involves more, please – more sugar and fat, that is? Even a bona fide healthy food such as kale has been re-packaged and re-processed for the snack food aisle. Says Chin, “In the consumer mind, they may truly believe they want something healthy, but research shows that what you say and what you do are completely different.”

Just ask the fast food industry, which has repeatedly re-invented menu options to please a fickle public. “The fast food chains have tried hard to please the public with healthier options, only to watch them flop or morph into something else,” she says. A lot of the products start out with a healthy component, like yogurt and granola bars, but then they evolve into “candy wannabes,” with colored sprinkles and chocolate chips. “These things were introduced on a health basis but due to consumer demand and preferences they evolved into indulgences,” says Chin. When oatmeal suddenly picked up a cool-and-healthy vibe a couple years ago, Chin recalls the penultimate attempt to cash in on the trend – glazed donuts, sprinkled with oatmeal on top.

It’s no surprise that the next big thing will likely be Cronut-like, something high in fat and sugar, which are the key components in any sort of mass market taste sensation. “Americans have their magical way of thinking about healthy eating, because we value taste over everything,” says Chin. “Cronuts™ will ride the wave until the next big thing.”


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