Perfectly timed for the pre-Hanukkah crowds, doughnuts are back in Israel, a decade after the shameful defeat endured by American Dunkin' Donuts, which left the Jewish state with its tail between its legs.
These days, the doughnuts are being sold in selected Alonit convenience stores and according to initial tests, are enjoying great success. Blue Square Group, which owns Alonit, says its store locations along the highways gives their doughnuts an edge sales wise.
In contrast to the Dunkin' Donuts branches which were located in major cities and which failed miserably in Israel. In honor of Hanukkah, the doughnuts will be available throughout the Alonit stores.
The local doughnuts are based on the American recipes: air filled circular bits of dough which are fried at a much higher speed than the Israeli version – 45 seconds instead of six minutes – and are covered in a variety of glazes including chocolate, caramel, strawberry, banana, coconut, peanuts and various fruits. Unlike the Israeli jelly doughnut – these doughnuts have no fillings.
"We have dozens of glazes and we like to make different varieties" said Zohar Norman, owner and CEO of Cocoa Mr. Doughnuts. He's the man who brought doughnuts back to Israel and is marketing them to local stores. He states that the Israeli favorites include chocolate and vanilla for adults and strawberry and banana for kids. The doughnuts come in a medium size, avoiding the larger size produced by the American brand.
Norman added that lab tests have revealed that each doughnut has between 180-240 calories. It is recommended that they be eaten as close as possible to the time they were fried, but they are freezable, and 10-15 seconds in the microwave will get them back to their doughy state.
The doughnuts cost between NIS 10 ($2.75) for two doughnuts at the supermarkets and NIS 7 ($1.90) for a single doughnut at the Alonit stores.
No go in Tel Aviv
A little reminder of the last time doughnuts tried to take over the Israeli market: The first Dunkin' Donuts store opened its doors near Rabin Square in Tel Aviv in 1996 and was considered, at least in the first few weeks of operation – as the biggest selling branch in the world.
The group closed its doors in Israel in 2001 after major losses and failure to merge with various companies. Beyond the doughnuts themselves that couldn't crack the secret to the Israeli palette, it was the Intifada that supplied the death blow for the group's operations in Israel. Tourism slowed, sales plummeted and debts finally brought an end to doughnuts in Israel.
Norman isn't deterred by Dunkin' Donuts' previous failure. "I have experience in selling ice to Eskimos" says the man who insisted on establishing an Israeli style dairy farm for Israelis in the US, and who was the first man to sell hummus to Americans. He established Sabra Salads which was later purchased by Rabbi Yehudah Pearl (who later sold the factory to Strauss, which recently became allied with PepsiCo).
After 25 years in the US market, Norman came back to Israel three years ago and purchased a bakery in Yavne, with plans to import American products to Israel. Doughnuts are the first phase, with American pizza and muffins as the second phase of his plan. The second phase is undergoing market testing.
Norman decided to introduce the doughnuts to the Israeli public in the north of Israel. He learnt that in spite of Dunkin' Donuts' catastrophic failure, the Israeli market has potential: "There is no reason why a country that goes wild for jelly doughnuts once a year shouldn't enjoy doughnuts all year round."
"Dunkin' Donuts failed in Tel Aviv", Norman explains the reasoning behind launching the doughnuts in the periphery, "which is why for the first phase we decided to go for sales points for the population on the go, and not coffee shops in urban areas, with a special emphasis on highway convenience stores."
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