From the infamous hot jam donut vans selling sugar-covered goodness to the classic bakery-made cinnamon, donuts have been a a staple of the Melbourne dessert scene. However, thanks to a flood of boutique donut retailers selling every flavour from rocky road to original glaze and everything in between, Melbourne has become the unofficial donut capital of the world.
If there is one thing Melbourne can set its watch to, it’s a food craze, and this is definitely a big one.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the emergence of the Melbourne donut scene is paralleled with the rise of the world’s now most popular photo sharing platform – Instagram. Although the social media giant has been around since 2010, gradual consumer acquisition has allowed for every man, woman and child to be able to snap pictures of their donuts and post it for the world to see when the donut boom hit full flight.
For Mick Samia, owner of the humble ‘Mick’s Place’ corner store in Thomastown, a social media whirlwind accompanying the Donutella, better known as the nutella-filled donut, had people flocking from everywhere to get their fix.
“It really did take us by surprise. From going from the milk bar in Mill Park lifestyle to having rows and rows of people lining up out the door for these donuts. It was crazy,” he told upstart.
“Looking back, I don’t even know how we managed, we were under the pump… just under the pump.”
“To be honest, donuts have been popular since God knows when, since the beginning of the donut. With social media, it’s just a different form of popularity, everyone can see everything and it’s just going to get more popular.”
It wasn’t long before the Thomastown local was selling up to 4000 units per day, according to Herald Sun.
The media coverage didn’t end there however, with many newspapers and online magazines choosing to run with donut-related stories, helping people to find the very best deep-fried treats in Melbourne.
Josh Bozin, a prominent blogger and editor for The Tailored Man and later GQ Magazine, started his career in the midst of the donut madness and has seen the progression of the trend over time.
“It was ridiculous,” Bozin said.
“When I first started writing properly, I was covering a heap of food stories, and half of them were literally about donuts. People couldn’t get enough.”
“I think now it’s died down a fair bit, but you still see them everywhere. They were probably there before, but the rush for them over a pretty short period of time kind of…. put them back on the map.”
“They went from being your standard glazed, cinnamon, and jam to now every flavour you can imagine.”
“I was getting a lot of them for free for doing the stories. Great for research, not so much for keeping fit,” he laughed.
In 2018, following the multiple store closures of one of Melbourne’s most prominent donut institutions, Doughnut Time, there may have been some thought that the craze was beginning to come to a close.
Joining in on the donut renaissance is arguably the world’s most recognizable donut brand, Krispy Kreme. After having closed their retail stores in Melbourne over a decade ago, the donut giants have pounced on the opportunity to take advantage of the city’s sugar cravings, reinventing themselves with retail stores in the CBD as well as opening up brand new larger retail locations in both Bulleen and Fawkner.
Andrew Kuzminski, manager of the newly opened Krispy Kreme retail store in Bulleen believes the brand, as well as finding the best locations, were keys to the store’s success.
“I think that the first time Krispy Kreme came to Melbourne back in the early 2000’s, we set up in the city and were hard to get to. People had to catch public transport to get their donuts and the rent was really high,” he said.
“The next time, we’ve tried to set up closer to schools and communities and it’s going well so far.”
“You definitely do look at the competition, but we’re a reputable brand and we back that people will like our product.”
“We think that at the end of the day, people like donuts. We don’t think the rise in popularity was necessarily a craze.”
Time will tell whether the donut bubble will burst, or whether this is just the beginning.
Aaron Tribuzio is a third-year Media and Communications student at La Trobe University. Keep up to date with his thoughts on Twitter @Tribuzio23.