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The History of Krispy Kreme

After purchasing a secret yeast donut recipe from a New Orleans French chef, Vernon Rudolph rented a building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and began selling Krispy Kreme donuts to local grocery stores on July 13, 1937. A similar but more detailed version of the story suggests that Rudolph’s uncle was the one to purchase the recipe from a chef named Joe LeBeau and that Rudolph sold donuts door-to-door for his uncle in Kentucky in 1933; then in 1935, due to the economic struggles of the time, Rudolph’s uncle sold the shop, but Rudolph couldn’t afford to buy it. Instead, his father bought it, but Rudolph still wanted his own shop, so he set out on his own and opened his own Krispy Kreme location with 2 friends in 1937. Both versions of the chain’s origin story agree that the enticing scent of Rudolph’s donuts baking at the North Carolina location drew in passerby who asked if they could buy hot donuts. In response, Rudolph cut a hole in an outside wall of the building and began selling his donuts directly to customers on the sidewalk. (One version also claims that he gave out free samples at the end of each day.) The first donuts sold were Krispy Kreme’s famous Original Glazed flavor. Krispy Kreme soon expanded into a small chain with most stores being family owned. Each location used the same recipe, but because the donuts were made from scratch at each location, the results weren’t always consistent, so Rudolph built a mixing plant and developed a distribution system to deliver dry donut mix to each store. Around the 1950s, he and his equipment engineers also created unique donut-making equipment for use at Krispy Kreme locations and began automating the production process. In the 1960s, Krispy Kreme expanded throughout the Southeast. At this time, store designs were standardized and the iconic green tile roofs and heritage road signs were added. By this time, flavor offerings had also expanded to include Jelly Filled, Cream Filled, Vanilla and Maple Icing, and more. Three years after Rudolph passed away in 1973, the company was sold to Beatrice Foods Company. However, in 1982, a small group of early franchisees bought Krispy Kreme back from Beatrice Foods and began to expand outside of the Southeast. The first New York City location opened in 1996 and in 1999, California got its first Krispy Kreme. Expansion — both at home and abroad — continued into the 2000s. Today, Krispy Kreme is an iconic donut shop known for its decadent donuts and unique flavor collaborations, such as 2020’s Butterfinger donuts and 2024's Kit Kat donuts.

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