When it comes to a hot, plain, glazed donut, Krispy Kreme’s are hard to beat. Their donuts are popular, delicious, and addictive enough that comedian Chris Rock insists crack must be an ingredient. Krispy Kreme donuts have been made using the same recipe since the very beginning, over 80 years ago. Today, they have over 1,000 locations in 27 different countries, and a loyal following worldwide.
Why is it Called Krispy Kreme?
22-year old Vernon Rudolph opened the first Krispy Kreme in 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where the headquarters still remain today. The recipe for his now-famous yeast-raised donut wasn’t a treasured family recipe or even his own unique innovation – Rudolph bought the secret recipe from a French pastry chef from New Orleans!
Vernon Rudolph didn’t have an actual store when he first started. In fact, he didn’t have much of anything – when he first arrived in Winston-Salem, he only had $25 in cash, a few pieces of donut-making equipment, the secret recipe, and the name Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.
Where exactly that name came from is nearly as much of a mystery as the secret recipe itself. Apparently, when Rudolph bought the secret donut recipe from the New Orleans-based chef, the name came along with it – but an explanation didn’t. Many logically assume that the name refers to the texture of the donut when you bite into it – crispy (or “krispy”) on the outside from the glaze, soft and almost creamy (“kremey”) when you sink your teeth in. But truly, there’s no official word on its genuine origin. (There is on its pronunciation, though – Krispy Kreme launched an elaborate April Fool’s joke in 2017 saying they’d change the brand’s name in the U.K. to “Krispy Cream” due to so many Brits pronouncing it, “créme.”)
Image source: Krispy Kreme
When Rudolph was first starting out, he used his last $25 to rent a factory space and only sold his donuts to grocery stores. He even convinced a nearby grocer to lend him ingredients in return for payment once the donuts were sold, since he didn’t have any extra money to buy them. Of course, Krispy Kreme Donuts being sold only at grocery stores didn’t last long, due mainly to their incredible smell. The scents emanating from Rudolph’s factory building were so tantalizing, mobs of people came in from off the street and asked to buy whatever he was making. Rudolph cut a hole in the wall and started making sidewalk sales.
Krispy Kreme expanded over the next few years to a small chain of stores, still mostly family owned. All used the same secret recipe but weren’t producing incredibly consistent products., so Krispy Kreme started mechanizing their whole donut-making process. They started delivering a dry donut mix to every store, then eventually engineered doughnut making equipment used at each location still used today.
In the 1960s, Krispy Kreme’s retro-themed design became what it still is today, with the green tiled roofs and the heritage road signs. One notable exception wasn’t introduced until the 1990s – the iconic Krispy Kreme Hot Light, connoting when you can purchase donuts right off the presses. Nowadays, there’s even an app for that and here’s how it works, according to Lafeea Watson, manager of Krispy Kreme’s media relations. When a fresh batch of donuts is ready, an employee inside each Krispy Kreme store that hosts a sign presses a button to turn on the light. The Hot Light app is synced with the tangible store lights, virtually igniting every time that in-store button is pressed.
What’s your go-to donut at Krispy Kreme? What do you think of their coffee? Let us know in the comments!
Emma Roberts is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about learning, traveling, and language. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Brigham Young University.