Vol. 1, Issue 3, May 27, 2003
Frosting Migration More Serious than Previously Believed
Frosting migration poses a significant economic risk to America's doughnut purveyors, according to researchers at Cornell University.
In a study to be published in the April 2003 issue of Science, researchers demonstrate that the average doughnut can lose up to 50% of it's frosting in under three hours when stored in a vertical position.
"Although we expected to find a certain amount of degradation, the actual extent to which coverage was reduced was surprising," said Dr. Duncan d'Eaunotz in a press release this morning. "Certain factors did appear to reduce slippage, such as the presence of jimmies or shredded coconut. However, even in these instances, losses of up to 25% were observed under laboratory conditions."
The study has significant implications for the nation's $2.5 billion doughnut industry, which depends primarily on viscous sugared coatings to differentiate itself from the $10.5 billion dollar pre-packaged snack industry. "I mean, the frosting on a Hostess cupcake - that's not going anywhere, even in a zero-gravity environment," said d'Eaunotz. "Traditional circular baked goods purveyors have worked hard to distinguish their products from the mainstream, primarily through products which offer increased frosting-to-face transfer."
In recent years, reeling from unexpected declines in market share due to the rise of specialty coffee houses such as Starbuck's - which often offer their own baked goods - traditional doughnut bakery chains such as Krispy Kreme have resorted to stacking their products vertically in order to maximize storage efficiency.
"Vertical storage gave the industry a temporary boost because of the perceived increase in value," noted economist K. Khreim of Stanford University. "Consumers felt that the boxes looked fuller with the new arrangement. However, the resulting dissatisfaction with doughnuts half-covered in a viscous mess has detracted from this initially positive consumer reaction."
Loathe to dispense entirely with the otherwise profitable practice of vertical stacking, doughnut industry scientists are turning to nanotechnology-based solutions, including netting made of microfibers to adhere the frosting layer to the doughnut without sacrificing low viscosity, and combining frosting mixtures with increased iron content and magnetized doughnuts. None of these solutions is expected to be ready for the consumer market until 2005 at the earliest, however.
"It puts the leading doughnut makers in a difficult position," acknowledged Kriem. "For the time being, I'm buying my doughnuts one at a time."