Krispy Kreme Hits Back After Backlash Over Offering Free Donuts

by Jennifer Shea

Krispy Kreme executives thought they were doing a nice thing to support herd immunity by offering a free glazed donut to individuals who’ve gotten a Covid-19 vaccine.

But critics argued that the marketing tactic was not so nice – encouraging people to eat unhealthy food at a time when staying healthy has never been more important.

Krispy Kreme has a history of offering free donuts to celebrate major milestones and holidays. They gave out free donuts last year on Election Day. They also gave out free donuts on Halloween to people in costumes. And they released special caramel donuts to celebrate autumn.

Now Krispy Kreme is hitting back at critics of its most recent promotion. The company’s CEO, Mike Tattersfield, spoke to Yahoo! Finance on Saturday about the company’s perspective on the controversy.

Company Faced Backlash After Free Donut Offer

After Krispy Kreme announced its new promotion, everyone from health officials to Twitter users to comedian Stephen Colbert jumped to point out that obesity is a risk factor for serious Covid-19 outcomes. Critics argued that the marketing tactic would induce people to buy more donuts, leading to weight gain and clogged arteries.

“Krispy Kreme is offering free donuts to anyone who’s been vaccinated. Which is great news for anyone who got the shot but still has a death wish,” Colbert tweeted.  

Former Baltimore health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen warned that “donuts are a treat that’s not good for health if eaten every day.” She added that a daily donut “without otherwise adjusting diet or exercise habits, would lead to about 15 pounds of weight gain by the end of the year,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that obesity is a serious and costly disease, and it’s growing more common. By 2018, 42.4% of Americans suffered from obesity.

Krispy Kreme CEO Says They Had the Best of Intentions

CEO Tattersfield fired back that nobody is forcing people to buy more donuts.

“We’re a sweet treat company, [and] if folks don’t want to visit a donut shop, they don’t have to,” he told Yahoo!. If “folks that want to get a vaccine, if they decide to combine a Krispy Kreme pickup [for] a doughnut, they can. That’s how we look at it… generosity.”

In fact, when the pandemic first hit last March, Krispy Kreme started offering healthcare workers a free dozen donuts. And Tattersfield said the healthcare workers themselves, who know the risks of obesity, were happy to take them up on their offer.

“I drop off a lot of doughnuts to the healthcare system,” Tattersfield said. “They’re very appreciative, given the days that they have to work… People are always looking for a little sweet treat break. It’s okay.”

In 2020, the company gave away 30 million free donuts. But same-store sales jumped, according to Yahoo!, suggesting that the promotions have paid off and brought in more paying customers.

“We just focus on actually doing the generosity. That’s Krispy Kreme,” Tattersfield said.

Krispy Kreme is offering all its employees up to four hours of paid time off to get the vaccine, per People. So even if Covid-19 hasn’t hurt the donut chain’s sales, its executives are as eager as anyone to put the pandemic behind them.