Despite being an all-time champion in the development of delicious food, McDonald’s dessert offerings have always been lacking. The chocolate chip cookies are a toot, the snack-size apple pies are a boot, and the McFlurry is nothing more than a poor attempt at a Dairy Queen Blizzard. (Most of the time it’s not even mixed—the Oreo crumbles are just poured on top!) In short, McDonald’s needs help with its sweets, and it might have found the perfect partner.
In October 2022, McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme announced a partnership: Krispy Kreme doughnuts would be sold at select McDonald’s locations in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of a pilot program. Customers could order the original glazed doughnut, a glazed doughnut filled with raspberry jelly, or a chocolate iced doughnut with sprinkles, either individually or by the dozen.
McDonald’s, it must be said, has been attempting doughnuts for a while. In February 2019, the company launched Donut Sticks, “sweetening up Valentine’s Day” for anyone realistic enough about their relationship to take their significant other to McDonald’s on February 14. In 2020, as part of its new breakfast pastry lineup, the company debuted a deeply underwhelming apple fritter, met with negative reviews just about everywhere. Then, in 2021, McDonald’s added to the all-day breakfast pastry lineup with a Glazed Pull-Apart Donut, which barely met the definition of “fine.”
Customers seem to have responded well to Krispy Kreme’s clearly superior product, because Krispy Kreme has announced this test run will be expanding to 160 McDonald’s locations in the Louisville and Lexington areas for a limited time. The company mentioned that the partnership is part of its “omni-channel strategy” to bring its doughnuts to customers through means beyond Krispy Kreme stores—a strategy that has seen record sales for the brand.
For a while, my local Duane Reade placed boxes of fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts right next to the checkout. This is a smart distribution strategy, since the closest Krispy Kreme store is in the hellhole that is Times Square. Meeting consumers where they already shop and eat means those shoppers can get their doughnut fix while leaving brick-and-mortar locations to the tourists.
It’s unclear when or whether Krispy Kreme and McDonald’s will expand their partnership beyond Kentucky anytime soon, but if positive sales trends continue, it seems highly likely that more states will begin testing the strategy. Bottom line, though, the “hub-and-spoke” approach is simple yet effective: Krispy Kreme stores make the doughnuts, the doughnuts are “Delivered Fresh Daily” to other outlets, people buy the doughnuts. With the McDonald’s partnership slowly expanding, it looks like 2023 may be another record-breaking year for Krispy Kreme.