Donutology owner Andrew Cameron is no stranger to the donut world. The Lansing, Kansas native had previously built a reputation in the Midwest with his Daylight Donuts stores. After opening six of them throughout Kansas, the donut virtuoso was looking for a new challenge.
That’s when he came up with the idea for an interactive donut experience. Billed as a “modern donut laboratory,” Donutology in Kansas City, Missouri encourages its customers to discover their unique “donut gene” by experimenting with toppings served from glass beakers.
“Currently, the donut shop is pretty passive. I wanted to go interactive, to where you could pick out exactly the donut you want. We have over 42,000 varieties you can choose from, and you can get them fresh all day long, versus a traditional donut shop where you go in and whatever’s in the case is what you get,” Cameron says.
Donutology went with the science theme at its shop because of the experimentation factor of having so many flavor combinations from which customers can choose. It also happens to be one of Cameron’s favorite subjects. He and his wife Meghan believe that it has an incredibly important influence in our lives. They even participate in education outreach, hosting story times with local libraries to give children more opportunities at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
That is not the only local partnership Donutology participates in; as a matter of fact, it works with several businesses in the Kansas City area to strengthen the community. The shop partners with local coffee company The Roasterie for its local blend of barista-prepared coffee drinks, it makes its famous Donutology Donut Milkshakes with Kansas City’s Belfonte Ice Cream, it includes Shatto Milk Company’s milk on the menu, and it even has its donut boxes produced locally.
Another important partnership, with merchandising becoming a key aspect of retail bakery business, is Donutology’s affiliation with local t-shirt company Charlie Hustle. The partnership has resulted in some truly unique t-shirt designs which feature the familiar KC heart logo that residents have come to know well, adorned with sprinkles corresponding with Donutology’s logo colors. Other designs from Charlie Hustle include a shirt that says “Donut Kill My Vibe” and one saluting Donutology’s recent experiment with its now famous Space Donut.
In December of 2016, Cameron decided to boldly go where few had gone before. “I have always wanted to send something into space,” he says. The shop sent a sprinkled donut into space using a helium weather balloon, with a thick protective layer of silicon to make it space-proof. The donut went up 97,000 feet in the air and ended up traveling 253 miles, from Marceline, Missouri to eastern Illinois. It landed in a rural area, a quarter of a mile from a prison, in the middle of a farm field.
The entire journey was captured on a GoPro camera fixed to a plexiglass wing, the product of an idea courtesy of marketing agency Sandbox. The video has become a social media sensation and is truly an incredible sight to behold. It has even motivated others to send food into space. Major fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken plans to send a chicken sandwich towards the stratosphere sometime in July.
“It has had an impact on our shop. It’s more than just a gimmick or stunt. It’s meant to inspire people to go out and do something science-related, and it’s proof that your science experiment can be really fun too,” Cameron says. Donutology now houses the “space donut” in a display case in the middle of the shop, along with the deflated weather balloon and a map of the flight path, as well as Space Donut t-shirts. Visitors can also see the video of the launch and flight.
This innovative concept is just a small window into Donutology’s creativity. Cameron wants the shop to be on the cutting edge of innovation in the bakery world. That starts with customization. “Customization is where the business is headed, as well as miniature donuts. We do mini-donuts as custom so that someone can taste multiple profiles instead of having to eat an entire full-sized donut. They can have three different varieties for what amounts to one donut,” Cameron says.
There are more unique projects in the pipeline. A new product being introduced at the end of June is the Doughnado, which takes donut dough and turns it into ice cream cones. “We spiral our dough and then we cook it on an open-air fryer, and then we dip it in cinnamon sugar. It’s hot, we pour cold ice cream into it, and we already have the toppings in the store for our donuts. It’s a play off a Hungarian food called the Chimney Cake, which is really popular in Eastern Europe,” Cameron says.
Another big collaboration that Cameron is excited about is with Andre’s Chocolates. The Kansas City business has been an area mainstay for over 60 years, and Donutology will look to sweeten its products even further with its confections.
The shop has an unmistakable interior and exterior. Located in the Westport district of Kansas City, it took the place of a historic dry cleaning business. The interior maintains some of the aesthetics of that business, while throwing in some modern, sleek flair. Customers can easily find the shop from the street, with its bright signage designed by Sandbox Agency. Cameron felt that Westport was the perfect place to try something different and vibrant because of the energy of the area.
It’s all part of a simple philosophy. Donutology’s mission statement is to elevate happiness. Every decision Andrew Cameron and his team makes is based on that basic message. From placing an emphasis on science and innovation, to creating mouthwatering flavor combinations that keep customers satisfied, Donutology has proved its hypothesis.