Battle of the donuts: Can a foreign brand displace a local Jamaican favourite?

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Just one day after National Donut Day in the United States (June 2), Jamaica went into something of a donut feeding frenzy as the American franchise Krispy Kreme opened its first outlet in uptown Kingston.

Although it was unusually chilly and damp after heavy rains had just broken Jamaica’s weeks-long drought, some donut enthusiasts camped out overnight for the opening. Not everyone, however, was amused at the idea:

One Facebook user made fun of the overnight campers:

Lol Krispy Kreme Jamaica has set up tents and port-a-potties so that the public can camp out in their parking lot/make shift camp site ahead of their grand opening tomorrow at 9am, Jamaica is not a normal place, I would really like to see who is going to do it, this is going to be hilarious, smh, you would think this is the 2nd coming of Jesus. Lmao

However, one TikTok user who attended the pre-launch understood why: there was a chance of winning anywhere from three months’ to one year's worth of free donuts if you were among the first few customers:

As the launch drew nearer, one Jamaican Twitter user had many hilarious visual responses to his tweet on what outfit to wear for the opening:

Other social media users were amused by Jamaicans’ pronunciation of the brand's name:

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered outside the outlet early on Saturday morning:

Two weeks earlier, the company had held a “donut drop” to tickle the palates of Jamaicans, handing out free donuts. Some on Facebook commented on the health impacts:

More sugar and fat. May God help us. We need no more of these – we have enough sugar/diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems. Plus a poor health service. Be careful my fellow Jamaicans.

Psychologist Leachim Semaj concurred:

He continued:

The NHF is the National Health Fund, and the MOH is the Ministry of Health. His tweet prompted one Twitter user to respond:

Commenting on the brand's marketing tactics, another quipped sarcastically:

Several entities, including the country's police force, cleverly capitalised on the Krispy Kreme hype to further their own messages:

One marketing executive commented:

Excitement was so rife that those living outside of the capital city tweeted:

While the marketing blitz excited the taste buds, created some much-needed fun, and was generally acknowledged to be skilfully done, it may also spark a “donut war.” Jamaica already enjoys a popular local donut brand, Prestige, which operates a bakery in downtown Kingston. To date, however, the brand does not appear to have its own website.

Krispy Kreme, therefore, seems to be winning the day — for now, at least — but its approach has propelled Prestige, to at least venture into the world of social media. Jamaican Twitter has been watching with interest:

For many years, vendors have been selling six-packs of Prestige jelly donuts, with their familiar pink and white design, at traffic lights and bus parks across the city, while some donut sellers make a living by walking through communities, selling the soft, sticky, English-style pastries. The local brand, therefore, has its staunch defenders:

For many Jamaicans, Prestige donuts evoke feelings of nostalgia and memories of school days:

There is no doubt that the Krispy Kreme launch provided a great diversion, at a time when many Jamaicans are feeling just a little overwhelmed by a long drought, political bickering, and economic worries. One Twitter user quipped:

Whether the newcomer prevails in the long run, or the local favourite stands firm remains to be seen. Some international fast-food brands have had mixed fortunes on the island. There was considerable pushback, for instance, over the arrival of Starbucks in Jamaica, which opened its first store in Montego Bay in 2017. However, the perceived threat from the overseas company appears to have evaporated. Despite Starbucks’ expansion to eight stores in Kingston alone, many local coffee shops continue to hold their own, with some suggesting Starbucks may have helped boost a “coffee culture” in Jamaica.

It may turn out, as one Twitter user suggested, that the “indigenous donut” appeals to a different market:

Nevertheless, one social media user predicted that the Krispy (or Kripsy) Kreme excitement would not last:

Time will tell. The first skirmish may be over, but the donut war may continue for some time to come, with potential effects on Jamaicans’ waistlines.

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