This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Symrise in-sight Series

New versions of familiar food and beverage favorites have wide appeal since they offer interesting dimensions of taste to established enjoyment. Doughnuttery has captured this appeal in three New York City locations where they feature their unique twist on an American favorite – the doughnut. The moderately priced artisanal mini sized doughnuts are topped with sugar and glazes that tantalize palates. Symrise interviewed owner and innovator Evan Feldman at Doughnuttery’s Chelsea Market shop to find out more about this delicious doughnut concept which has taken hold with New Yorkers and tourists. Although no food truck per se is operated by Doughnuttery, they can be found at booths in temporary street food markets and in food halls.  

Emmanuel Laroche, Vice President, Marketing & Consumer Insights, Symrise North America, Global Marketing Leader, along with his marketing team, got answers from Evan Feldman who launched Doughnuttery in October 2012.

Emmanuel Laroche: What’s the status of your business over the past few months?

Evan Feldman: Well, we have been very busy. Fall is our busy time of year when people became most interested in our products. Normally, all year long in fact, interest is high – but it’s more so in the last quarter of the year than in previous months and we try to make the most of it.

EL: As I understand it, you are currently working on your Columbus Circle location, correct?

Evan: Yes, Columbus Circle is coming along. We’re finishing up the design and we are going to submit our plans to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) very soon, hopefully to get approval to start construction there. It won’t take us very long to build. It should be a very quick process and we hope to be open before the start of the New Year. That will give us two permanent locations as well as our presence at different markets throughout the city. Right now we have Broadway Bites at Greeley Square - near Herald Square - which is better known because of Macy’s. We also plan to do the Union Square Holiday Market and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market and possibly, as we did last year, we will be at the South Street Seaport next to the Ice Skating rink – we’ll have to see.

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EL: Can you tell us what led you to Doughnuttery – and what you were doing prior to the opening of the business?

Evan: Well, my background is originally in Finance, having worked 10 years with one financial firm and two years with another. I was also somewhat involved in Alternative Energy until I decided that I would pick up on my long held desire to be in business for myself. I just wasn’t sure where I wanted to go on that. I did have retail jobs when I was younger. When I met my wife, I was introduced to the bakery world. Her family owned a bakery called William Greenburg Desserts which has been around since the 1940s. It was a real family business and even though I was in Finance, around the holidays I would take a day or two off and help them out – before Thanksgiving and around Christmas time. I would be helping out my wife who had her own career but would pitch in at those busy times. Even my father-in-law, who was an attorney, would take time off to help around the bakery – so the whole family was there working together. It was a lot of fun and I wanted to work with food and specifically, I liked desserts – I have a sweet tooth myself - and doughnuts just came out of that. I recognized there was an opportunity to do doughnuts in a way that they had not been done before. I knew doughnuts were becoming popular in the wake of the cupcake craze and with everyone always looking for the next big thing. Unlike some other fads and trends, doughnuts have always been part of American culture and also other cultures have their versions of fried dough. We’re located at the Chelsea Market so we see quite a number of different types of people coming through – tourists and local residents – and everyone seems to relate to fried dough whether it’s called a doughnut or something else. Every culture has its variation of a donut. Its timelessness and the fact that it is universally recognized led to the Doughnuttery being born.

EL: When did you actually start the business?

Evan: I started the business in October, 2012, at the Chelsea location and we were fortunate to get this great spot. It’s an ideal place to start a business because they do a great job of bringing in young and interesting businesses and helping to promote them and expose them to a global audience. Chelsea is a magnet for tourists and locals as well giving you a dual advantage. As a new business, being in the Chelsea Market gives you credibility. Even though people may not have heard of you, they respect the Chelsea Market – so it is truly a great place to start.

EL: How were your inspired to create the variety of different doughnuts you offer, including their very original names?

Evan: Over the last three years since we started, I have accumulated a list of about 50 to 100 flavor combinations that we haven’t tried and I would like to try. Inspiration comes to me from anywhere. For instance, I like going to farmer’s markets and food halls and I love going to the grocery store. I like being around different merchandise and different products. I see things that may work because they are trendy. Everyone is putting bacon in and on everything right now so we tried bacon doughnuts and it works. One of our original flavors is lavender. I always knew I wanted to do something with lavender. I love the aroma and knew that lavender tea works so I thought I would try it in our sugar but not by itself because it’s too floral and needed help. So we added vanilla and pistachio and that worked. It’s become one of our most successful crowd pleasers. Other flavors are more seasonal driven – for instance, last year, we put pumpkin on the menu because it is very popular and people ask for it. We put it on for the holidays but it never left the menu and stayed on all year. Some things don’t work out. We had a pineapple, wasabi, ginger one which was good but didn’t get the response we anticipated so we got rid of it. We have about 12 to 24 different flavors and to be honest, some of the classic flavors like cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar and vanilla glaze are actually good sellers, just as good if not better than our funky flavors. People tend to return to what they recognize and what they grew up with. It’s sort of a nostalgic response. So many choose cinnamon doughnuts, telling us their grandmothers made them and our doughnuts taste just like what they remember. The basic tastes seem to be what people really love. Others flavors may be just as successful but they get a different response.

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EL: What was your most recent inspiration?

Evan: The last flavor I was playing around with was an Asian inspired hot Sriracha glaze. It was a little intense but it worked well with the sweetness of the doughnut and we’re working with it as a dipping product but haven’t finalized it as yet. We are still working on a Sriracha line but it is not on our menu as yet.

EL: It does work well with peanut butter; you might want to try it.

Evan: That sounds interesting and we actually have a peanut butter and jelly and a peanut butter, cayenne and pretzel. The last flavor we put on our menu was what we called “flower power” – a combination of honey, hibiscus and rose petals. It was a lot like the lavender, vanilla and pistachio we created. We got the concept thinking about what goes well with tea and the honey worked just as well in the sugar. The addition of rose was just another layer of flavor.

Check back next week to learn more about Donuttery and their flavor innovation process and the future of food trucks/carts!

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