Inside Dunkin's Virtually Trans-Fat Free Donut

It’s been a long road but Dunkin Donuts is going virtually trans-fat free by next month. What took so long? Well, matching the yummy-but-deadly taste of trans-fat frying oil with gross-but-healthier oils is a time consuming process, according to the Boston Globe:

Doughnuts cooked with cottonseed oil had a bad aftertaste. The 100 percent palm oil bled right through the pastry, leaving an oily mess on Dunkin’s signature pink tray paper. Anyone daring enough to try one discovered a dry, yet waxy dough with a distinct flavor of palm. Nearby employees who were developing other products in the research lab would curse at them, LeClair recalled, yelling “Are you crazy?” after the team left out batches of the mystery doughnuts for them to try.

Eventually they found the right blend and secretly tested them at certain stores to see if anyone noticed. They didn’t.

Dunkin’s research and development manager, Rick Golden, one of the few people in the know, slept with his cellphone by his pillow every night during the trial, waiting for someone to call with a doughnut crisis. No one did.

Baking with the new oil blend, a deeper shade of brown than the old one, costs less than a penny more per doughnut. Dunkin’ says it is not recommending a price increase, but the decision is up to franchisees.

“Whether a trans-fat-free doughnut is going to increase sales or not, it doesn’t matter. If your competitors are making claims about trans fats, you just have to be on the right side of the issue. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a food industry consulting group in Chicago.

Congratulations, consumers! You made Dunkin’ Donuts a tiny, tiny, tiny bit healthier. It’s just too bad they still make you fat.

The long, secret journey to a healthier donut [Boston Globe]
(Photo:Morton Fox)

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  1. azntg says:

    And too bad it gave DD an excuse to raise prices once again.

    I don’t know about you guys, but usually, for regular doughnuts, the browner it looks, the older or overbaked it looks to me, which causes me to avoid them even more.

  2. vanilla-fro says:

    fat and happy.

  3. Hobo-NC says:

    Why not just use pure animal shortening?

  4. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    forget regular customers, can police officers tell the difference?

  5. bonzombiekitty says:

    @Hobo-NC: Too expensive probably.

  6. seanSF says:

    “Keeping up with the Joneses”?? How about not slowly killing your customers. Geez.

  7. killavanilla says:

    Boy, the world is truly a screwed up place.
    I understand the whole trans-fat thing if we were talking about anything even remotely healthy – but doughnuts?
    Really?
    I don’t eat DD donuts anymore because they are always pre-made elsewhere and trucked in to the stores by me. They are almost always stale and taste like sugared cardboard.
    But now that they are trans-fat free? Still not buying them.

  8. MameDennis says:

    @vanilla-fro:
    Amen, my friend.

  9. MercuryPDX says:

    I miss Dunkin Donuts. :(
    Krispy Kreme is a poor substitute.

  10. theblackdog says:

    So instead of trans fats, I’m getting more saturated fats. That’s not an incentive for me to start buying the donuts.

  11. blue_duck says:

    I’m actually more of a salty snack person~ I prefer fried things to slowly kill me rather than doughnuts… Yahoo DD anyway :) I think…

  12. Asvetic says:

    I wonder what the caloric difference is? I’m sure it’s astronomically high regardless, I’m just curious.

    I’ll bet you’ll never see the caloric information on any of their menus anytime soon.

  13. qwickone says:

    @Hobo-NC: because then it wouldn’t be vegetarian and believe it or not, some of use look into that sort of stuff before eating out.

  14. alice_bunnie says:

    @Asvetic:

    Most chain restaurants have “nutrition” information on their websites.

    [www.dunkindonuts.com]

  15. swalve says:

    Trans fats are not “yummy”, they are simply a cheap replacement for natural saturated fats.

    It would not surprise me in the least if we find out that the rise in heart disease was caused by the rise in trans fat usage (margarine, crisco).

  16. jeff303 says:

    @theblackdog: Well given that saturated fat is in fact an essential nutrient and trans fat is a completely unhealthy and harmful ingredient, this seems like a good trade, no?

  17. Dervish says:

    @swalve: Trans fats are certainly “yummier” than a lot of trans-free fats when used as donut shortening. I’ve tried donuts fried in a number of different palm blends, and they taste rancid compared to ones fried in a standard soy-cottonseed blend.

  18. Asvetic says:

    @alice_bunnie: Well, for the “Old Fashioned Cake Donut” it says 300 calories, 170 are from fat and it has 4 grams of Trans Fats.

    [www.dunkindonuts.com]

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if they post the updated trans fat-free versions to see what the differences are.

  19. Dervish says:

    @swalve: Trans fats are certainly “yummier” than many non-trans alternatives when used as donut shortening. I’ve tried donuts fried in a number of different palm blends (and animal blends!), and they’re awful tasting compared to ones fried in a standard soy/cottonseed fat.

    @Asvetic: As far as I know, there’s not a huge caloric difference between the shortenings themselves. However, donuts absorb different amounts of different fats during frying. I would have to imagine, though, that one of the criteria in DD’s search for a trans-free alternatives was a similar fat uptake. This leads me to believe that there probably isn’t a huge difference in calories.

  20. stubblyhead says:

    @azntg: I think they were saying that the oil itself is a darker color, not the finished product.

  21. jrdnjstn78 says:

    “Dunkin’s research and development manager, Rick Golden, one of the few people in the know, slept with his cellphone by his pillow every night during the trial, waiting for someone to call with a doughnut crisis. No one did.”

    HAhahahahaha!!! What the heck would constitute as a doughnut crisis? I haven’t bought a doughnut from DD in about 16 yrs.

  22. SOhp101 says:

    @jeff303: Actually saturated fat isn’t an essential nutrient. Your body would do just fine without it.

    Taking out trans fat and adding saturated fat (from palm oil, one of the worst sources) is like replacing dogs who crap on your lawn with kids who pee on it; neither choice is better. Then again people eat donuts very well know that it’s junk food.

  23. lincolnparadox says:

    Trans fats are only going to be yummier than regular fats if you’re storing them for a long time. Trans fats are more shelf-stable. That’s it. It’s the same oil, with the same basic flavor profile. It’s just solid at room temperature, and less likely to go rancid.

    It’s too bad that DD can’t use peanut oil. Something tells me that those donuts would be fantastic.

  24. AbstractConcept says:

    Ron Paul ay..

  25. peggynature says:

    @Hobo-NC: That would be saturated fat. Which is the reason commercial trans-fats were invented in the first place, to avoid saturated fat.

    Back to the drawing board.

  26. peggynature says:

    @lincolnparadox: Peanut oil would be ALLSOME, OMG. Maybe Chik-fil-a should start making donuts.

  27. formergr says:

    Hey- Is that the Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 17 in Ramsey, NJ?? It’s seriously scary that it’s been over 12 years since I lived near there and I recognized it (assuming I’m right)…

  28. LiC says:

    “Dunkin’s research and development manager, Rick Golden, one of the few people in the know, slept with his cellphone by his pillow every night during the trial, waiting for someone to call with a doughnut crisis.”

    That is so awesome, this dude is like Batman. Or Homer Simpson. Or maybe I should sleep with my cell phone next to my pillow so I wake up to a doughnut (donut?) crisis.

  29. lockdog says:

    @Hobo-NC: A local ?donutery? near me does. The donuts are fried in 100% pure lard. They are the ugliest things you have ever seen, dark brown, mottled, and when you bite into them you can see a color change in the dough from the fat similar to how a sponge changes colors slightly when you wring it out. On the other hand, they’re considered one of the best donuts in the country and they have consistently sold out of donuts no later than 8pm every day for 60 years.

  30. lockdog says:

    @lockdog: make that 8am. And now I’m hungry for some donuts.

  31. RvLeshrac says:

    Thanks for continuing to find ways to ruin my pastries, health-nuts!

    Seriously, though, for more than 150 years in this country, people cooked with pure lard. The secret? They actually got out and worked, exercised. Walked places.

    You can’t use lard now because of OMGlotsoffat. Companies spent a fortune moving from REAL cooking oil/fats to oils with trans-fat because the trans-fats were considered “healthier” and kept the same taste. Now they’re spending a fortune moving from trans-fatty oils to vegetable oils. In another 20-30 years, we’ll be telling them that they can’t use ANY oils or serve ANY fried foods.

    This is why, of course, local restaurants are slowly seeing an uptick in business. If you’re running a local restaurant, you can cook with whatever you want – the majority of people don’t CARE what the chef is cooking with, as long as the food tastes good. This is also why items such as the HamDog, Luther, and Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub’s MASSIVE burgers are on their menus – no matter how fattening or disgusting something may sound to *YOU*, someone else might enjoy eating it.

    But then, this is the day where health nuts think they have some ‘right’ to tell us what we can or can’t eat. Eventually, we’ll have to fry chicken secretly in the basement because it will be illegal to serve anything but steamed vegetables.

  32. HungryGrrl says:

    Healthy fried food seems like a bit of an oxymoron. Instead of tinkering with the formulas to make their products comply to current health concern trends, they really should just post the calorie and fat information, and let the consumers make a choice.

    Trans fat or no trans fat, a single donut is still going to have 30% your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat. Add a Coffee Coolata to the mix, and you’ve got your daily allowance filled. And it’s not even 10 AM yet.

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @MalcoveMagnesia: If I ran the place, they (the police) would be the majority of my test group. All kidding aside, they seem to make up a good portion of the local shop’s clientele (or maybe they just sit there longer, after all, who’s going to ask them to “move along”?).

    @HungryGrrl: “Healthy fried food” is like “quick and courteous service” in most fast-food places (especially the big chains with the good locations).

  34. Dervish says:

    @HungryGrrl: Actually, it appears like a lot of their donuts come in at less than 30% of your daily saturated fats. Some of the cake donuts are near that level, but a lot of the yeast raised are closer to 10%. Not that they’re not still unhealthy.

  35. magus_melchior says:

    @RvLeshrac: You know, you could follow your own advice and make your own fried foods (but I’d advise using the kitchen, not the basement). With the right tools and a bit of patience, you can stick it to them health busybodies and the corporate machine.

  36. ltlbbynthn says:

    trans fats taste terrible. I bet a donut cooked in lard would be the best thing any of us has tasted. But we all think lard is gross….
    and it, like, goes bad. companies wanted baked good that could sit on the shelf of your local store for months. Whatever.