Limited-time donuts bring excitement and variety to your menu, but sometimes they need a little more. An outside influence, perhaps, that can push your donuts forward with unique flavor combinations. Customers may even be more likely to visit your shop knowing that another local business or brand took part in a donut’s creation.

Collaborations have long been a valuable marketing tool for businesses, so why not use the same principle at yours? Across the country, donut shops are teaming up with professional chefs, restaurants and even alcohol suppliers to spice up their selections.

New York City’s The Doughnut Project (TDP) is very familiar with the concept. Unique collaborations have become the calling card for the shop. Living up to its name, the “doughnut projects” it experiments with are one-of-a-kind creations. Some of the businesses that have taken part in these projects in the past include Carnegie Deli, Angry Orchard Hard Cider and Ruffino Wines.

The shop’s Reuben Doughnut Sandwich featured doughnut buns with Carnegie Deli’s beloved pastrami, brûléed Swiss cheese and “Russian dressing” glaze with a cornichon (small pickle) garnish. The Angry Crisp Doughnut channeled the flavors of the beloved apple crisp dessert, combining TDP’s gourmet doughnuts with hard cider for the perfect amount of juicy fresh apple notes balanced with the sweet crunchy goodness of the doughnut. For National Prosecco Day, The Doughnut Project made Prosecco-infused doughnuts. The doughnuts featured Ruffino Prosecco and were glazed with Prosecco frosting. TDP also added a fancy element to the doughnuts by sprinkling them with edible gold leaf and pink glitter.

“The apple crisp is such an iconic fall dessert and we wanted to give people a taste of it like they’ve never had before,” said Leslie Polizzotto, co-founder of The Doughnut Project, about its partnership with Angry Orchard.

One of the biggest partnerships The Doughnut Project has taken part in was teaming up with Marvel to promote the ultimate team-up movie, “Avengers Endgame.” In August of 2019, the shop released a one-day-only, limited-edition Avengers Endgame Doughnut with “Infinity Stone fillings.” Customers who were lucky enough to get a hold of one of the 75 doughnuts offered were surprised with what Infinity Stone Power (filling) they received.

The Doughnut Project teamed up with top NYC chefs for limited-edition doughnuts.

While you may not be able to partner with one of the biggest names in entertainment, there are plenty of other options available, such as a prominent local chef or restaurant. The Doughnut Project’s 2019 Restaurant Series showcased top New York City chefs for a six-week run. Each week included a different limited-edition doughnut inspired by specific dishes from the creator’s favorite restaurants throughout New York City.

The lineup included:

  • The Lilia Doughnut – Inspired by Chef Missy Robbins’ Italian Job Dessert, it featured vanilla gelato, sea salt, honey, olive oil, and fennel pollen.
  • The Rosso Pomodoro Doughnut – Inspired by Chef Simone Falco’s Zucchetta Pizza, it featured mozzarella di bufala, delicata squash, taleggio cheese, and Villa Manodori balsamic.
  • The Oxomoco Doughnut – Inspired by Chef Justin Bazdarich and Chef de Cuisine Matt Conroy’s Lamb Barbacoa, it featured Salsa de Pipicha, watercress, and squash blossoms.
  • The JeJu Noodle Bar Doughnut – Inspired by Chef Douglas Kim’s Hotteok, it featured Korean street food and a sweet filled pancake.
  • The Quality Italian Doughnut – Inspired by Chef Nick Gaube’s Ricotta, it featured sicilian oregano, flower honey, and pine nuts.
  • The Cannibal – Inspired by Chef Ryan Skeen’s Roasted Bone Marrow, it featured pickled beets and crispy shallots.

Primo’s Donuts, which has been a staple of the Los Angeles food scene for over 60 years, teamed up with local chefs and restauranteurs last year on a limited-edition donut. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Los Angeles restaurants Animal, Son of a Gun and Jon & Vinny’s worked with Primo’s to develop several recipe ideas.

After trying five new creations, the favorite donut and the one that made its debut in the second half of November 2019 at the shop was the Curry Mango Chocolate Fudge. The buttermilk mango donut was covered in a chocolate curry fudge glaze and topped with dried mango and mandarin orange zest.

“The Curry Mango Chocolate Fudge donut is an amazing combination of sweet and savory flavors. The mango is chopped and is infused into our famous buttermilk dough, topped with the curry chocolate fudge icing and then finished with orange zest,” said Ralph Primo Jr. “Vinny was wonderful to work with, and he really made our old-school homegrown donuts amazing with this new flavor, it’s incredible.”

An unconventional partnership, but one that worked out well, was between Glaze Donuts in Milford, NJ, and area Mexican restaurant chain Taqueria Los Gueros. The two teamed up for the Guacadonut, a chocolate-frosted donut filled with sweet avocado cream. The product was made available at multiple Taqueria Los Gueros locations throughout New Jersey.

Sweet and savory combinations are trendy, and the collaboration between Glaze Donuts and Taqueria Los Gueros took advantage of that trend as curious customers tried out this unconventional donut.

The collaboration can be about more than just the donut itself; it can also be about the packaging. Earlier this year, The Salty Donut in Miami collaborated with Uber Eats and former New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski on the shop’s limited-edition Uber Eats x Gronk Box. Available in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, the specially-designed box featured four Salty Donut treats. Among those was a new flavor designed by Gronkowski himself: The Whipped Piña Colada. It was made with 24-hour brioche and filled with piña colada whip, covered in coconut glaze and topped with salted coconut streusel and a pineapple flower.

Candy Collabs

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts has used collaborations with major confectioners like Ferrero and The Hershey Company to dress up its doughnuts. Chocolate, peanut butter and doughnut lovers rejoiced in August 2019 with the news that the company had teamed up with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for two new flavor innovations.

Krispy Kreme used the iconic Butterfinger candy bar on new doughnuts earlier this year.

The Reese’s Original Filled Chocolate Lovers Doughnut was a chocolate Original Glazed doughnut filled with Reese’s peanut butter Kreme, dipped in chocolate fudge icing and decorated with a Reese’s peanut butter icing drizzle. The Reese’s Original Filled Peanut Butter Lovers Doughnut was a chocolate Original Glazed doughnut filled with chocolate peanut butter Kreme, dipped in Reese’s peanut butter icing and decorated with a chocolate icing drizzle.

In February of 2020, the company got “Crispety, Crunchety, Peanut Buttery” with two new items. Krispy Kreme teamed up with Butterfinger to use the iconic candy bar on its new Butterfinger Original Filled Doughnut and Butterfinger Fudge Cake Doughnut.

The Butterfinger Original Filled Doughnut was an Original Glazed doughnut filled with Peanut Butter Chocolate Kreme, dipped in Butterfinger icing and topped with Butterfinger pieces and a chocolate drizzle. The Butterfinger Fudge Cake Doughnut featured a rich chocolate cake doughnut dipped in chocolate icing, topped with a Peanut Butter Chocolate Kreme and Butterfinger pieces.