For every shift in the economy, noticeable changes in fresh food retailing, including bakery, occur throughout the distribution chain as a result. Now in wake of the most dramatic crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic – of recent history, a fundamental transformation is occurring in how breads, bakery products and other fresh foods are produced and distributed to consumers. For instance, ghost kitchens, a food preparation and cooking facility set up for delivery-only meals, are popping up across the country. The implications for fresh bakery are profound and lasting.

On one hand, this emerging trend makes it imperative for retail bakeries to examine new ways to sell and to generate excitement about innovative products.

One prime example of such innovation is happening in Chicago. While Oktoberfest is cancelled this year in its usual capacity, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee is featuring a sweet way to continue celebrating the beloved German holiday — with a twist. Donut guru and Stan’s “chief doughboy” Rich Labriola has created the world’s first pretzel donut.

Made with Stan’s signature yeast dough, the Stan’s Pretzel Donut is fried, soaked in a pretzel bath, and baked to perfection. Each pretzel donut is drizzled with Stan’s signature vanilla icing. Starting Sept. 19, in honor of the would-be start of Oktoberfest, the Stan’s Pretzel Donut will be available at all 12 Stan’s locations in the Chicagoland. 

“We’ve been working on this for a few years now, trying different variations to find the perfect balance between sweet and savory,” Labriola says. “As someone who has been baking and working with pretzels and donuts my entire life, I’m excited for our fans to sink their teeth into what I know is the ultimate pretzel donut.”

As a leader in donut innovation, Stan’s finds new ways each month to bring joy to its fans. Other seasonal treats to complement the Stan’s Pretzel Donut include the Pumpkin Old Fashioned Donut, Apple Cider Cake Donut, Fall Glazed Donut, and Apple Pie LeStan. Also coming in September are Stan’s private label cold brew growlers.

Labriola is quick to point out that he prefers to lead rather than follow the trends. This philosophy applies applicably to Stan’s Pretzel Donut.

“In our technique, we age the flour for two to three weeks. Then everything after the proof, there are 10 different things we do to make our pretzel,” he says. “Our pretzel dough is very unique.”

Because he steers away from using artificial flavors, the process is quite involved. Essentially, the product transforms into a pretzel after they fry the dough – once they soak the dough in a caustic soda bath and then bake it.

They start by making their signature yeast donut dough, following a variety of important steps including double hydration and long retarding time of 18 to 24 hours. Labriola points out their donut dough is “panettone like.” but not too rich in egg and butter like brioche dough. It’s a large donut, “but ours is very light and very flavorful.”

One ingredient that can be linked to the unique flavor is their use of vanilla. They use vanilla is their dough. “We use tons of vanilla in our bakery,” Labriola explains.

The end result is a perfectly balanced donut that tastes a little like a pretzel and a little like a sweet donut, with a thicker vanilla glaze on top. More flavors are likely coming down the road.

“This is a true pretzel donut made with our yeasted raised donut dough,” Labriola says. “It is not savory, but just sweet enough. We are pairing its introduction to the beginning of Oktoberfest. What more perfect time to launch it?”