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Psycho Donuts’ efforts to push the envelope have sometimes been met with controversy.

In its first year, some mental health advocates who felt the concept perpetuated negative stereotypes criticized the brand.

“People didn’t understand the ironic and somewhat satirical approach we were trying to take,” Zweigoron said. “They thought we were trying to mock people with mental illness, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.”

At one point, the company made a sizeable donation to a mental health foundation in an attempt to show support, but the money was returned.

Eventually, Zweigoron sat down with critics to discuss their concerns. Mainly, they didn’t like menu references to diagnosable illnesses, he said. In response, the names and descriptions of some menu items were changed. The “Bi Polar” doughnut is now called the “Mood Swing,” for example.

“That whole controversy seems to have died away,” Zweigoron said.

But in June, Psycho Donuts made headlines again after revealing plans to give away a foie-gras-filled doughnut dubbed the Foie Bomb on National Donut Day despite a California state law banning the sale of foie gras.

“Technically it wasn’t illegal because we were giving them away,” Zweigoron said.

At both locations, about 100 guests were lined up at the door at 6 a.m., he said. But activists also showed and PETA threatened a lawsuit that never happened.

The press attention, whether positive or negative, has helped market the brand, Zweigoron said.

“It all helps,” he said. “We’re looking to grow, both in the short term and the long term.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout