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Krispy Kreme offering a dozen donuts for the average cost of a gallon of gas

The donut maker is running the inflation-tied promotion starting today and for the next three Wednesdays.
Image: A box of Krispy Kreme donuts in a store in Chicago.
A box of Krispy Kreme donuts in a store in Chicago.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

The donut chain Krispy Kreme knows a thing or two about holes, including the ones higher prices are making in consumers’ budgets. 

Starting Wednesday, and for the next three Wednesdays, customers can buy a dozen glazed donuts for the same price that an average gallon of gas cost nationally on the preceding Monday. That would be $4.11 this week, compared to the usual price of as high as $20 for a dozen donuts, depending on location.

That may be why two dozen is the limit, according to the company. And when the stores run out, that’s it. 

 “This is a milestone,” said Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University, adding that even joking about inflation is new territory for most marketing pros. “When brands start using inflation as part of their promotional effort, it does tell you it’s becoming pretty well established in the economy.”

And the promotion works both ways. Krispy Kreme would like to avoid holes in its own budget, as prices for commodities and wages continue to rise. 

“I think it’s a good move for them,” said Darren Tristano, CEO of the consulting firm FoodserviceResults. "They’re giving people another reason to come into the store for the next four weeks.” Krispy Kreme is also counting on some customers who come for the glazed donuts to pick up some other varieties along with them. At full price.

The timing is good, on a couple of fronts. Lots of employers are starting to get antsy about employees returning to the workplace, and have begun nudging them back. Tristano says a couple dozen donuts for the price of a few might entice managers trying to ease the transition. 

“When you buy a dozen donuts, you’re typically sharing them,” he said. “I think that is going to help, for those companies that are getting workers back in.”

And running the promotion for only four weeks put Krispy Kreme right in our psychological sweet spot. That’s about how long it takes people to form a new habit, Tristano said.

“It establishes a pattern," he said. "When a consumer starts to establish a pattern over a four-week period, generally speaking, [it] is likely to continue even when the price of donuts is up."