I can’t think of many people who eat doughnuts on a regular basis. But they must be out there, because over the last five years the doughnut has been reinvented and re-popularized, with trendy shops popping up all over the place offering flavour combinations like Maple Bacon, Green Tea and Chorizo Chedder (yum!). And Tim Hortons recently had a “Duelling Doughnuts” competition as it looks to expand its own selection.
The doughnut contest was a PR stint in advance of announcing plans to tie itself to U.S. fast food giant, Burger King.
Canadians must feel passionately about doughnuts, because a lot of us are barking about our beloved Tims being sucked up by a foreign company. But those complainers need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Tim Hortons is a global brand in an era of global business. Tims franchises already operate across the US and beyond. It’s shares may be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but its shareholders are all over the world. As part of 3G Capital (the company that will own both Tim Hortons and Burger King), it will expand into more countries and become part of the third largest fast food retailer in the world. And the headquarters will still be located in Ontario.
Personally, Tims is a brand rooted in nostalgia. It reminds me of going to Leaf’s games and taking road trips as a kid. But now I live in an urban centre far from Hogtown, I try to limit my sugar intake and in the last twelve months I spent more money at Lululemon then I did at Tim Horton’s.
I’m not sure what is the average age of the Tims customer, but are the Millenials riding their bikes to the nearest outlet for their daily double double? I’m not sure. This is the crowd that wants its TV for free and will never devote their careers to just one company.
Things can’t always stay the same and to survive a brand has to evolve. Timbits was a freakin’ brilliant idea – I can eat four of them and still convince myself I haven’t had a whole doughnut – and Tim Hortons was wise to first expand its menu when it did. Most recently it’s trendy doughnut flavours and, for the first time in its 50 year history, a new dark roast coffee. Will a gluten free doughnut follow? (There’s already a macaroon.) I hear beer is in the making.
The Tims of tomorrow will look different. It has to. The challenge of course is to evolve without watering down its brand, raising prices and allienating it’s most loyal customers. Whether it can do that under new management is the question. Global expansion costs big dinero. Tim Hortons may be an iconic Canadian brand but it certainly does not define us any more than Canadian Tire does. At the end of the day, it’s just business.