Kathleen Purvis

Does Krispy Kreme get lost in translation?

Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts
Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts Courtesy of Krispy Kreme

Does the essential perfection of the original glazed Krispy Kreme lose something when it leaves home?

Sure, you can translate “Hot & Now” in any language – “chaud et maintenant” in France, “caldo e ora” in Italy. But the question is: Should you?

When the news broke Monday that the Krispy Kreme company, based in Winston-Salem, has agreed to be sold for $1.35 billion to Austria’s Reimann family, which already owns Keurig and Stumptown coffee, the news mostly focused on coffee. JAB Beech, the company that arranged the deal, wants Krispy Kreme to up its coffee game.

But they also are expected to make Krispy Kreme a stronger playerworldwide. And that made me ponder the strong ties the South has always had with Krispy Kreme.

Whenever Krispy Kreme is the subject, the debate gets heated. The anti-Krispy camp sniffs that puffy fried yeast rings draped in sugar glaze are too sweet. The pro-Krispy side just goes quiet and drools.

Debating Krispy Kremes as doughnuts misses the point, though. A Krispy Kreme, to those of us who grew up with them, isn’t really a doughnut. A real doughnut is a cake doughnut, or maybe a kruller. Something more breakfast-like.

A Krispy Kreme isn’t that. A Krispy Kreme is the experience. A Krispy Kreme is being 10 years old and going out with your dad on a Sunday morning to pick up a dozen glazed doughnuts. It’s wearing one of those paper hats all the way home with the warm doughnut box on your lap.

A Krispy Kreme is going back to your dorm a couple of hours before dawn, when you know you stayed up too late and heard music played way too loud. You know what the next morning is going to be like, so you push it off a little longer and stop to get something in your stomach before you go face-first into your pillow.

A Krispy Kreme is being in that celebration mood when you need a small splurge, calories be darned, and you go through the drive-through to pick up a small box, and you hook one warm doughnut on your little finger so you can drive and eat at the same time.

There was a time when those Krispy Kreme experiences were really different, something everyone who came to visit the South had to get. But then, the company went public in 2000 and tried to expand all over the country. I remember being in Las Vegas in 2001 and spotting a small Krispy Kreme cart outside a casino. I knew it wouldn’t be good: If they’re not coming straight out of the fryer, if you can’t see them running under that sugar waterfall, it isn’t the same.

The world apparently agreed, because the big expansion was ultimately scaled back.

These days, there already are Krispy Kreme shops in 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Australia. They make special international flavors, like Melon Green Tea in Japan and Chocolate Cherry in Russia.

But the original glazed? We never should have let it leave home. It just isn’t the same without the paper hat.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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