The following is Kruse Company president Nancy Kruse’s response to Bret Thorn’s thoughts on Cronuts.

One of the reasons I enjoy our monthly back-and-forth, Bret, is that I frequently learn something new. In this case, it’s that you’re a true-blue True Blood fan. While I’m not a devotee, I’m very familiar with the series and the novels that spawned it because of their impact on pop culture and all their attendant media coverage.

Similarly, though I’ve never tried a Cronut, it’s been pretty hard to miss the hype and hysteria that have surrounded it. As I read about the product and its rapidly multiplying progeny, though, I can’t help but get a sense of déjà vu.

From my perspective, the Cronut is actually the latest gastronomic novelty act to have hit a mother lode of fevered press coverage and frantic foodie interest. Many of these attention grabbers have been on the savory side, like KFC’s Double Down, which replaced the sandwich bun with two chicken breasts a few years back, or Dunkin’ Donuts’ more recent Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, which sticks bacon and eggs between two slices of glazed doughnut — a cheeky combination of sweet, salty and savory.

In fact, menu mash-ups like these have been appearing just about everywhere:

• There’s a direct line from any number of new-age doughnut meisters to the Cronut. In Chicago, for example, Glazed and Infused fills a Bismark with crème brûlée, an enormous hit with patrons, while Doughnut Vault has just launched a Cookies & Cream Doughnut. Both are great illustrations of creative culinary cross-referencing.

• Sunny Street Cafes, a 13-unit chain based in Columbus, Ohio, recently introduced a promotional menu featuring Tres Leches French Toast, a fun takeoff that puts the luscious Latin American dessert on the breakfast plate.

• Beverages are on board, too. Red Robin’s Samuel Adams Oktoberfest Milkshake was a beer-based shake that married two terrific brands and provided a marketing hat trick of competitive differentiation, beverage creativity and traffic driver.

These examples suggest a few things. First, chef Ansel is really the latest pastry provocateur to have turned an innovative idea into a home run. Second, by the time our readers read this, much of the hubbub around the Cronut may have quieted down, but consumer appetite for the new and outrageous will remain constant. It doubtless will be fed by summertime state-fair concessioners who have unleashed memorable noshes like deep-fried Coca-Cola on an unsuspecting populace.

And third, Bret, I want to talk to you about your television viewing habits, but perhaps we can save that discussion for another time. I’m still thinking about the potential commercialization of tangerine-flavored blood.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary


Nancy Kruse, president of the Kruse Company, is a menu trends analyst based in Atlanta and a regular contributor to Nation’s Restaurant News. E-mail her at nancykruse@aol.com.