How Imitation Cronuts Could Give Us All Better Cronuts

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Everyone has been copying the cronut, from Indianapolis to Washington. So, perhaps, it was inevitable that the dessert that's taken over America, or at least New York, has found its way onto Asian soil. But don't fret for the cronut just yet; this can be a good thing. 

The Wall Street Journal's Josephine Cuneta and Eric Bellman detail various Asian countries where different permutations of the cronut have popped up: for example, a dulce de leche version in the Philippines or a peanut-caramel version in China. They also explain some of the ways the cronut got there, writing of one (dedicated) baker: "She sent her brother, who works in New York, to stand in line and investigate. He waited for two hours to get some allotted cronuts, and then flew one over from New York to Manila." 

That's one long flight  for someone to get their hands on a cronut. Yet it's actually not out of the ordinary. Once, when I was visiting the Philippines as a child, it was the height of Krispy Kreme mania. I would see people carry boxes upon boxes of original glazed donuts that they must have brought all the way from the U.S. Some people just love their sweets.

But effort aside, this news isn't going to go over well with cronut creator Dominique Ansel, who has already made it known that he doesn't care for cronut knockoffs. And let's be clear, piracy is bad and can end up costing a lot of people a lot of money. We do not condone it and are supporters of intellectual property. That said, we're going to approach this from the viewpoint of a hopeless cronut addict who is determined to get her hands on the fried treat, legality be damned. Here's why she should be happy about the cronut imitations:

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More Cronuts. Ansel has implemented cronut rations. The current limit is two cronuts per person. And Ansel's bakery only makes 200-250 cronuts per day. Do the math and only a few people in this world have tasted a cronut. And, as famous persons David Simon and David Carr can attest, you sometimes get little more than a measly nibble. If there are more people making more cronuts, then there will be more access to cronuts, which is good if you can't make it to SoHo neighborhood at 6 a.m. But are these people getting the real thing? Well...

It Actually Drives Demand for the Original. What's important to remember is that Ansel isn't hurting for business. Even though it's been pointed out that his cronut business model doesn't scale well, the line is still routinely around the block. And he can actually benefit from cronut knockoffs, as they will only reflect well on his brand in the end.

Bootlegs Can Make the Cronut Better. "Pirates come up with new variations on existing products, nudging the slower-moving companies to adapt and, in many cases, improving on the original products," writes Slate's Christopher Beam, point out that there are knockoff iPhones in China with, for example, two SIM card slots instead of one or removable batteries. He even goes on to mention services like Baidu's MP3 search and WeChat's chat client that are better than the Google features they copied. Think of what this can mean for the cronut: more flavors, better flavors, flakier crusts, etc. This might keep Ansel from getting stale, so to speak.

Of course, these sweet dreams all depend on the cronut's staying power. If we tire of cronuts the way we did of Krispy Kreme donuts, then they'll go the way of, well, Krispy Kreme donuts. That might be beyond the grasp of both Ansel and his imitators.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.