How the waist was won

By Andrew Ross

While Canadians’ natural response to news of American expansion into our traditional institutions is hostile, Krispy Kreme’s imminent arrival has provoked a rather different reaction: eager anticipation.

This runs counter to expectations. Even Wal-Mart was never really welcomed in to the Dominion. They originally bought 122Woolworth’s stores and now, after a decade on the scene and millions of advertising dollars spent, Wal-Mart has earned our grudging acceptance.

Krispy Kreme, on the other hand, opened a single store in Ontario just over two years ago, and will have a grand total of 16 Canadian locations by the end of the year. I’ve never seen an advertisement for Krispy Kreme, yet somehow they seem to be all over the news and everyone seems to be excitedly awaiting the Mar. 30 grand opening of their first Calgary score.

What could possibly account for this uncharacteristic enthusiasm? As far as I can tell, there is only one explanation: there is something rotten in the state of Donuts.

When one thinks of Canada and donuts, the inevitable connection is Tim Hortons. With over 2,200 locations across the land, it is harder to not find a Tim’s than it is to find one. I can think of at least five different Tim Hortons within a 20 minute drive of my house.

On top of the relative abundance of retail locations, there is the Tim Hortons brand. You would be hard pressed to find a company that has done a better job of identifying their brand with Canada.

Remember the commercial with the nice Canadian kid doing a degree in Scotland who turned his dorm room into an unofficial Canadian Embassy, and Tim Hortons sent a coffee maker and a bunch of Tim Hortons mugs for all the nice homesick Canadian kids over there?

Or the one with the nice Canadian kid writing home to his family, telling them his trip to Europe was going great because all those other nice Canadian kids spotted his Tim Hortons mug and became his friends?

Who amongst us can honestly say those little vignettes didn’t tug at the heartstrings just a little bit?

There’s a reason Krispy Kreme (which had already been around for 27 years when the first Tim Hortons opened in Hamilton) never dared cross the 49th parallel until now–it would have been suicide.

What has changed? Two things: the donut market in Canada and Tim Hortons themselves.

Although Tim’s was always number one, there used to be alternative sources of deep-fried, chocolate coated goodness. Robin’s Donuts and Country Style Donuts, though not extinct, have been closing stores in Calgary. Perhaps they finally succumbed to the Tim Hortons marketing machine. Maybe they decided to cut their losses in cities where Krispy Kreme was arriving. Either way, they aren’t providing much competition.

Possibly as a result of their near-monopoly on donut sales in Canada, or possibly at the behest of their new Yankee master, Wendy’s, Tim Hortons has also changed the way they make their donuts. Although the boxes still read "Always fresh," the meaning of "fresh" has been changed to "recently thawed after being made and frozen at a factory in Burlington."

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they actually had the gall to make their donuts smaller. By visual inspection, they are roughly two-thirds the size they used to be. Not to mention they switched to lower-fat ingredients like vegetable oil in place of the traditional butter or lard.

Smaller, less fatty donuts? We Canadians had not seen such an affront since the Fox network decided a black puck didn’t stand out enough against white ice for their American viewers.

Full size donuts and double-double coffees built the Great Wide North!

The people were displeased but, being Canadians, were far too polite to actually do anything about it themselves. Krispy Kreme, already reeling from the popularity of fad diets in the United States, knew the time had come to head north.

If Krispy Kreme donuts really are the sugar and fat cluster-bombs they are made out to be, sales will undoubtedly be brisk as Canadians are not exactly known for dieting. After all, a little blubber goes a long way towards keeping warm in the winter.

"The size of the donut market is going to increase," predicted Roly Morris, CEO of Krispy Kreme’s Canadian subsidiary, in a CBC interview last year.

Well put, Roly. Well put.

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