KANSAS CITY - The idea for individually wrapped donuts came about thanks to the Baker Boy team doing some good old-fashioned customer outreach. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baker Boy began asking its many distributor partners and longtime K-12 school and healthcare customers what they saw as an immediate need in the face of the pandemic. The overwhelming majority of those said they needed more touchpoint-free foodservice solutions.

In response to this market demand, Baker Boy launched a line of seven individually wrapped donuts in September.

“We have seen immediate success with the school, healthcare and convenience store markets, as well as with independent grocers who lack the labor or facilities to decorate donuts for bakery cases,” said Dustin Monke, marketing manager for Dickinson, N.D.-based Baker Boy.

In addition, Baker Boy launched The Donut Hole thaw-and-serve fully finished donut line in October 2019. It quickly became one of their hottest new product launches ever. Baker Boy now offers 15 fully finished donuts, including three flavors of its award-winning Magic Ring Filled Donuts, which are iced and sprinkled ring donuts with filling in every bite.

The individually wrapped donuts also fall under The Donut Hole brand.

“With The Donut Hole line, we try to offer something for everyone,” Monke said. “We have iced and glazed donuts, yeast-raised and cake donuts, and everything from old favorites to new innovations such as the Glazed Apple Filled Fritter.”

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have influenced the way donuts are packaged and merchandised more than the types of donuts that stores are selling. “We all know supermarket bakery case sales dropped severely at the onset of COVID-19. But sales appear to be steadily rebounding, and the donuts being offered at store level appear unchanged from the pre-COVID days,” he said.

The marketing slogan for The Donut Hole thaw-and-serve line has been “No Preparation. No Worries.” These donuts provide exactly that: a solution for operators who want to be in the donut business but lack either the labor or the preparation capabilities at the store level.

Originally marketed as a solution for convenience stores, Baker Boy has seen this line be embraced by independent grocery chains, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic as stores looked for touchpoint-free options for bakery cases and bakery tabletop displays.

The donuts arrive in easy-to-manage 30-count cases. Each case has five six-count trays with available branding and nutritional information.

“We have learned customers merchandise these in a variety of ways, but they’re primarily sold as singles inside bakery cases or by the half-dozen inside of the provided trays,” Monke said.

“Our customers are still demanding new and innovative ideas,” he said. “While we are going through a strange period of time where some consumers want normalcy and others demand items be free any from human contact, we are doing our best to offer both options to our customers. The key to getting consumers back over to the donut case and into donut shops is by offering them something they can’t get anywhere else. That’s why Baker Boy’s technical experts and our research and development teams will continue to develop more flavors of Magic Ring Donuts and inventive ways to decorate and merchandise donuts.”

Response strategies

There is arguably not one area of life COVID hasn’t impacted, and bakery is no exception. Bakers have shown agility in the face of quickly changing circumstances, giving customers what they’ve asked for to feel safe, and consumers are showing their support by ordering online, taking advantage of curbside pickup, and adding gift cards to their carts.

According to Jackson, Mich.-based Dawn Foods, “artisanal bakery sales for large celebrations like weddings or graduation events have gone down by at least 50% or more compared to pre-COVID numbers.” With restrictions on the permitted size of gatherings, this statistic is no surprise. Bakers are adapting by offering smaller celebration cakes, as well as marketing celebration donuts and cupcakes to fit any size party. Just because the traditional reception has to wait, the sweet treats that mark the moments do not.


  • Suggest and market at-home celebrations that offer single serving baked goods
  • Encourage consumers to mark these important moments in new and creative ways
  • Share customer celebrations on social media with custom hashtags
  • Sweet and single

Dawn has also discovered that “more than half of artisanal bakers noted increases in sales of single-serve or pre-packaged items and a downtrend in larger items.” Similar to shrinking celebrations, more people at home translates into more people shopping for one. Bakers have adapted by investing in new packaging that promotes single servings and also showcases a commitment to health and safety. Even if consumers are purchasing multiple items, selling each one in its own package minimizes contamination and increases consumer confidence in your bakery’s best practices during COVID.


  • Invest in single serve packaging and share images on social media
  • Be sure your bakery case is showcasing single serve baked goods front and center
  • Communicate your strategy for packaging safety, including removing reusable cups or other items that can promote contamination
  • Kits are everywhere

Nearly one quarter of bakeries are selling at-home kits, Dawn’s research finds. These colorful creations are perfect for engaging kids in decorating, allowing families to freeze and bake what they want, and enjoying treats at home when the craving hits. From take-and-bake cinnamon rolls to donuts that can be decorated by the entire family, kits are flexible for delivery or curb-side pickup and fulfill multiple needs. They encourage creativity, bring families together, and bring needed moments of distraction to people hunkered down at home.


  • Create kits specific to kids that ramp up colorful decorating options
  • Diversify with take and bake kits like cinnamon rolls, muffins, or cookies
  • Consider a “gift a kit” program that delivers kits to customers as a surprise gift from family or friends
  • Other trends worth noticing

Beyond single servings, smaller celebrations, and kits, there are other trends emerging from COVID that bakers should consider:

Consumers are gravitating toward more traditional tastes that take them back to childhood. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the trends; just be sure to have a strategic mix of old and new in your case to satisfy all your consumers.

Gift cards are a big hit. Many communities want to support local businesses without putting their health at risk. Create a gift card program. It means a steady stream of revenue for you and gives consumers the opportunity to buy your baked goods now or in the future.

With more families at home, people are returning to baking. Help them succeed by creating how-to videos or decorating tutorials that leverage your kits or freeze and bake products. Your content can guide them step-by-step and make them more aware of your expertise.

A century of service

Still family owned and operated, Clyde’s Donuts continues the tradition of freshness and service, crafting nearly 6 million donuts each week in its 104,000-square-foot bakery in Addison, Ill. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Josh Bickford, executive vice president, strategic initiatives for Clyde’s, explains that trends have definitely shifted back to the tried-and-true favorites, such as glazed rings, apple fritters, and old fashioned donuts. Consumers tend to be looking for familiar favorites during their less frequent, but more substantial trips to the grocery store, he shares.

“Clyde’s has always been well-positioned to supply our customers with the exact packaging formats to meet their needs,” Bickford says. “In the case of the recent market, we were available for turnkey, fully-finished basics like glazed rings, but also added some interest to the product mix with specialty items like our pumpkin spice fritters.”

As for the impact of COVID-19 on the types of donuts that shoppers purchase at the supermarket, he explains that demand has definitely varied by region, based specifically on how receptive particular chains have been to returning to “opening back up.” While there is definitely increased demand for sealed, food-safe grab-and-go formats, Bickford says, some customers have continued their fresh bakery programs – moving self-service items behind the counter, or pre-bagging individual items before sale.

“While the individual, self-serve case has definitely seen some challenges in the past few months, donuts are still strong!” he shares. “A delicious donut is a wonderful comfort food, and for 100 years Clyde’s has always been proud to bring a smile to our customer’s face.”

Clyde’s features a diverse selection of how-to videos that can help instore bakeries craft creative finished projects with ease. For example, a video on s’mores donuts demonstrates how to easily create delicious decorated donuts using graham cracker crumbles and mini marshmallows. For extra pizzazz, drizzle with chocolate icing.

New routines

There are several major factors that are influencing consumer purchasing decisions in fresh bakery and other fresh foods, explains Jonna Parker, principal, Fresh Center of Excellence for IRI.

“We have more and different mouths to feed at home than ever before,” she said. New needs and behaviors are surfacing, in light of strong economic uncertainty. “We still have a 10% unemployment rate nationally.”

Something interesting is happening, though. People are more deeply engaged with food than ever. New routines have brought new buyers, “and that’s explicitly impacted fresh,” Parker said.

Still, Americans are suffering serious “meal fatigue.” Many want the decisions about what they are going to eat throughout the day made for them.

Prior to the pandemic, 70% of Americans rarely or never worked from home. Now, one-third of America’s shopping population works from home five or more days per week.

“That absolutely changes what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Parker said.

Individually wrapped

The coronavirus has dramatically changed the ways consumers select and receive different foods. As a direct result, individually wrapped baked goods have become extremely desirable and necessary to satisfy consumer demand for safe, yet delicious, bakery products. 

Muffin Town specializes in baking, individually wrapping, and freezing a dynamic variety of baked goods. Across the United States, and internationally, Muffin Town individually wrapped baked goods now fill the need for bakery items with high product integrity and reliability.

Items such as donuts, honey buns, and more are making great selections at schools, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, catering venues, athletic facilities, casinos, and all retail formats. Wide selections of product sizes and flavor choices are making it easy to fill menu and product requirements for food providers of every description.

Easy ordering procedures for Muffin Town brands or private label needs have been instituted to help every type of business, group or individual, order and enjoy all Muffin Town, Smart Choice, SunWise and Aespos individually wrapped baked goods. Consumers can visit Muffin Town’s online stores, www.MadelinesPantry.com and for case-lot purchases at www.MuffinTown.com/Store. 

Individually wrapped products assure maximum quality, safety, and grab-and-go convenience within the current environment and restrictions. Muffin Town has taken multiple steps to protect and maintain the product integrity of all products made at its US bakeries. 

J.S.B. Industries, Inc., headquartered in Chelsea, Mass., manufactures nut free bakery products under the Muffin Town, Smart Choice, Aesops Bagels, SunWise Peanut Free, and Madeline’s Gourmet Cookie brands. J.S.B. Industries now provides these quality brands to foodservice providers and retailers across the United States. The company operates two kosher manufacturing plants: one at its headquarters in Chelsea and a second facility in Lawrence, Mass. 

This story was featured in the October edition of Supermarket Perimeter. Click here to view the whole issue.