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Behind the Making of an American Favorite: Doughnuts

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At the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, doughnuts were advertised as the “food hit of the Century of Progress” and became an instant hit at a nickel a piece.

National Doughnut Week was launched in the same decade and now, nearly a century later, we celebrate doughnuts the entire month of June (National Doughnut Month and National Doughnut Day on June 4).

The doughnut craze could never have been sustained were it not for the invention of the automated doughnut machine by Russian refugee Adolph Levitt in 1920.

The doughnut craze could never have been sustained were it not for the invention of the automated doughnut machine by Russian refugee Adolph Levitt in 1920.

How many of you have ever peeped through the window of a bakery and become entranced by the rhythm of the doughnut-making machine and aroma of baking batter? So, imagine the sensory overload if you were on the floor of a large manufacturing facility that mass produces doughnuts.

The equipment needed to make these sweet delights is the engine that drives the doughnut industry and it should come as no surprise that the U.S. Census Bureau surveys the industries that manufacture food-making equipment — from doughnut fryers and doughnut cutters to sugaring tables and doughnut glazers.

So, let’s look behind the making of these scrumptious treats.

Doughnut-Making Machines

It takes many machine components to produce doughnuts, including production systems and thermo glazing equipment.

The businesses that use this type of equipment range from the corner doughnut shop and retail doughnut chains to large commercial establishments producing doughnuts for wholesale to grocery stores. They have one thing in common:  machines that mix, cook and prepare doughnuts.

Here we’ll look at two types of establishments that manufacture machinery you’re likely to find in a business that makes and sells doughnuts: makers of commercial dough-mixing machinery and makers of commercial cooking equipment.

Dough-Mixing Machinery establishments, as classified by the Census Bureau’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), primarily produce food manufacturing machinery. In the case of doughnuts, that would be the machines that mix the batter and make the dough. 


Krispy Automatic Ring-King Junior Doughnut Machine, National Museum of American History, americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1215321


Other Commercial and Service Industry Machinery Manufacturing includes manufacturers of a variety of equipment like fryers, deep-fat fryers and ovens used by doughnut makers to fry or bake doughnuts.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM), 17,933 people were employed in the manufacturing of dough-mixing machinery (Table 1). The annual payroll for this sector was $1.25 billion.

The same survey reported an even larger number of employees associated with the manufacture of cooking equipment: 55,609 (Table 2). The annual payroll was $3.53 billion.


Earning the Dough

In 2019, manufacturers of dough-mixing machinery reported revenue of $5.88 billion. In addition, cooking machine manufacturers reported revenue of $20.04 billion, over the same year.

Characteristics of industries that help create doughnuts:

  • Mixers. In 2019, there were 486 dough-mixing establishments (Table 3). Most — 152 — had five or fewer employees and only 10 establishments employed between 250 to 499 people.  S-corporations were the most prominent type of establishments, and 24 were individually owned (Table 4).

  • Cookers. The County Business Patterns shows 1,278 establishments manufactured cooking equipment in 2019. The majority employed five or fewer people but three employed 1,000 or more and 12 had 500-999 employees (Table 5). Many were classified as S-corporations and 63 were owned by individual proprietors (Table 6).


Tonja White is a supervisor program analyst in the Census Bureau’s Data User and Trade Outreach Branch in the Economic Management Division.


Page Last Revised - April 12, 2022
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