Emma McGeown
Emma McGeown is a Research Analyst for Mintel Ireland. Her focus areas include food & drink, retail and tourism within the Irish market.

Anyone who has ever scrolled Instagram will have come across pictures of colourful, elaborate doughnuts. As a matter of fact, of the millions of posts containing the hashtag #foodporn, over 40k between April-May 2019 were doughnuts, making them the most popular ‘foodporn’ treats, according to Brandwatch. The doughnut craze has finally hit Ireland and Northern Ireland (NI) too. Belfast witnessed a growth of start-ups in the last three years including Taboo Donuts, Oh Donuts and Guilt Trip, while in Dublin, a new wave of doughnut shops including Offbeat Donut have joined long-established specialists such as Revolution, The Rolling Donut and Boston Donut. And the numbers confirm the trend, as some 43% of all-Irish consumers have bought doughnuts in the last month, with popularity peaking among millennials – according to Mintel’s report on bread and baked goods in Ireland.

Photograph taken at Taboo Donuts, Belfast

With a significant amount of growth in premium doughnuts, each specialist is competing for visually-appealing, delicious, unique and interesting creations that not only entice customers in-store, but also captivate the masses via social media. We have identified five recent trends fuelling greater demand for doughnuts in Ireland.

1. Alcohol-infused doughnuts

In the age of nostalgia, we’re seeing foods that were once beloved during childhood emerge again with a mature-twist. Premium and artisan doughnut specialists in Ireland are seeking to target adults with alcohol-inspired flavours. In Northern Ireland, Guilt Trip Coffee launched its limited-edition doughnut for St Patrick’s Day 2019 made with NI-based Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey glaze. Oh Donuts launched a seasonal gin doughnut combining raspberry pulp and Copeland’s Raspberry and Mint gin, a local County Down distillery. This was created in partnership with cocktail bar Margot, where the treat is also sold.

Credit: @weareohdonuts

2. Doughnuts with a cause

Tapping into current events and on-trend causes can help to engage consumers in a more meaningful way. In Spring 2018, Dublin’s Aungier Danger (now closed) launched a ‘Repeal doughnut’ to support the ‘Repeal the 8th Amendment’ movement in spring 2018. The doughnut concept was quickly shared on social media resulting in a surge of public support.

Credit: @debstudioten

While The Rolling Donut introduced a rainbow doughnut for Pride month this year, with sales supporting ShoutOut, an LGBTQIA+ awareness charity in Ireland.

Credit: @therollingdonut_

3. Pop culture doughnuts

Pop culture trends can also engage customers, particularly limited-edition exclusive sweet treats. For example, Dublin’s Off Beat Donuts launched a range of Game of Thrones themed doughnuts for the final season premiere in 2019. The doughnuts, which were originally available for one day only on April 14th, made a comeback in May 2019. Theme-inspired flavours included The Jam Snow, The Night King and Red Wedding Red Velvet.

Credit: @offbeatdonuts

4. Gym doughnuts

Feeding into the protein craze, The Rolling Donut launched what they claim is Ireland’s first-ever protein doughnut range in March 2019, containing about 12g of protein per doughnut. ‘Pronut’ flavours include Cookies & Cream, Build Me Up Peanut Butter Cup and Vegan Chocolate and Raspberry – the latter appealing to the increasing demand for plant-based baked goods.

Credit: @therollingdonut_

5. Instagram-worthy indulgence

Consumers increasingly seek out unique and interesting experiences they can document on social media, in a constant effort to curate their ‘online personas’. Dublin-based Café Bombo, which opened in May 2019, specialises in bomboloni, an Italian-style doughnut topped and filled with indulgent sauces, fruit, sweets, and even popcorn. The café offers cocktails ‘on tap’ including Espresso Martini and Aperol Spritz, with the interior layout described as an ‘Instagram Dream’ with funky, colourful decor and mix-match layout – appealing to those focused on making picture-perfect memories.

Credit: @cafebombo

What’s Next

The doughnut industry is booming in Ireland and with specialists already tapping into high-protein trends, innovation within lowering sugar content could be the next step in appealing to health-conscious consumers. However, the challenge for creators will be to deliver on the same taste, texture and feel. In addition, gluten-free and vegan doughnuts are still somewhat underrepresented in the market, despite free-from diets continuing to gain momentum in Ireland. Finally, enhancing the indulgence experience in-store could be a way to stir up greater footfall, particularly if the experience can be made Instagrammable and ‘#foodporn’ worthy.