How Krispy Kreme went from being a single shop in North Carolina to a giant doughnut chain with a cult following

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krispy kreme
When the Krispy Kreme light is on, customers know doughnuts are fresh. Joe Raedle/Staff/Getty Images
  • The doughnut brand Krispy Kreme has offered its iconic glazed doughnuts since its opening in 1937.

  • The chain has developed a cult following over the past nearly 84 years.

  • From a single shop in North Carolina to its third IPO, here's what business has been like for the doughnut legend.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Krispy Kreme first opened in 1937.

Old Salem trucks lined up
Company trucks lined up outside the Old Salem store. Courtesy of Krispy Kreme

The very first Krispy Kreme shop popped up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. According to the company's website, founder Vernon Rudolph bought a secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe from a French chef based in New Orleans.

Rudolph baked the glazed doughnuts in a shop and sold them to local grocers.

The first doughnut sold was none other than the original glazed, which still has a cult following today.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Original glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

After fielding requests from pedestrians who wanted to buy the doughnuts as they passed by, Rudolph reportedly cut a hole in the side of the building to sell them directly.

But the company has since created other flavors, eventually becoming known for its collaborations and promotions.

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Doughnuts from Krispy Kreme's Butterfingers collaboration. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

They collaborate with different brands and even candy companies, like Butterfinger in February 2020.

When coronavirus vaccines became available to the general public, the company offered incentives of free doughnuts for anyone who came in with proof of vaccination.

Through the 1940s and '50s, the shop expanded.

KRISPY KREME
Krispy Kreme began to grow as a franchise. REUTERS/Richard Clement-Files RC/HB

The doughnut shop expanded to the size of a small chain. According to the company, most were owned by families.

Though each location's team used the same original recipe, they all made the dough in-house and from scratch, which led to inconsistencies.

To solve the issue of inconsistent doughnuts across stores, the company streamlined its dough-making.

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Fresh Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts. Chris Hondros/Staff/Getty Images

According to the company's website, it built a "mix plant" paired with a distribution system so that each doughnut shop would be working with the same dry dough mix.

The team kept innovating as they spent the 1950s focused on developed company-specific equipment that would further streamline the process.

During the next decade (from the 1960s through the early '70s), Krispy Kreme grew more. But with signature details, all locations resembled each other.

Krispy Kreme
A Krispy Kreme with its green roof. Joe Raedle/Staff/Getty Images

Part of Krispy Kreme's iconic look is the green tile roofing, which plays up the chain's green-and-white color scheme. There were also the large road signs that became a constant.

When Rudolph died in 1973, the company was restructured and then sold in 1976.

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A Krispy Kreme display at Publix grocery store. Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Beatrice Foods Company, the food distribution arm of Beatrice Companies, bought Krispy Kreme in 1976.

Franchisees bought Krispy Kreme back from Beatrice Food Co. in 1982 and focused on heightening customer experience.

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Krispy Kreme became a national chain. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The group took Krispy Kreme outside of its original geographical comfort zone of the southeast US with the 1996 opening of a New York City location and a 1999 California location, according to the company.

Krispy Kreme continues to expand today.

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Krispy Kreme's Time Square flagship store. Noam Galai/Contributor/Getty Images

In 2020, the now global chain opened its newest New York City flagship store in Times Square. The location is open 24 hours a day.

In 2000, the company went public for the first time. But in 2016, it went private again when it changed hands.

A trader blows out a chewing gum bubble while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
A trader blows out a chewing gum bubble while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Yana Paskova/Getty Images

At the turn of the millennium, Krispy Kreme was listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker KREM, Insider previously reported. It then switched to the New York Stock Exchange in 2001 and was listed as KKD.

Then, European company JAB Holding, which also owns several food chains including Panera Bread and Pret A Manger, acquired the doughnut brand for $1.35 billion in 2016, which took the company private again.

On June 1, the chain officially filed to go public again.

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Krispy Kreme filed for an IPO in June 2021. Noam Galai/Getty Images

On May 4, the company said it had confidentially submitted paperwork for an initial public offering, according to previous reporting.

On June 1, Krispy Kreme filed for the IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said in its filing that it would trade on the Nasdaq again, this time under the ticker DNUT.

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