Who Wouldn’t Want Donuts with Vitamins?
In the 1940’s the government had a Nutrition Division and this division initiated a program designed to get food companies to help educate the public on its nutrition message. This coincided with the relatively new ability to fortify products with synthesized vitamins, which Kellog’s cereal had already rushed to do. In 1938, Kellog’s Pep cereal was fortified with vitamins, one of the first. The Nutrition division initiated a system that allowed processors to have their nutrition claims approved by the agency, and therefore be able to display a “seal of approval” logo on their labels. Lots of food companies jumped on this chance, but, of course, it only served to allow them to tout the superior nutrition of their own products. Not only cereal companies got in on the act. Canned fruit and vegetable producers like Libby, as well as Birdseye Frozen foods established aggressive campaigns around the concept. Things got a bit out of control. Many of the cereal products were mostly sugar, of course, which hasn’t changed to this day. But, would you believe it, even a doughnut company put it’s hat in the ring.
The Doughnut Corporation of America, in 1941, came out with Vitamin Donuts. They were the biggest doughnut company of the time, and Dunkin Donuts was a long time off. The “For Pep and Vigor” message you see on the label image above fits in nicely with the idea that vitamins gave you “pep and energy.” As mentioned above, Kellog’s Pep vitamin fortified cereal was marketing on this same claim. These vitamin donuts were fortified with thiamine and some vitamin B3 and iron. They didn’t do well. They tried to switch to calling the product “Enriched Donuts” but the Nutrition Division wouldn’t have it, and instead wanted them to call it “Enriched Flour Donuts,” which doesn’t sound very tasty. The donuts, along with the whole nutrition campaign, fell on its face.
You might find the idea of “vitamin donuts” strange, but, perhaps ironically, all white flours, today, are enriched with nutrients that are typically lost during the refining process, including thiamine, B3, and iron, just as in the vitamin donuts, but also with folic acid, riboflavin, and niacin. The doughnuts we buy today are therefore more qualified to be called vitamin doughnuts or enriched doughnuts than the 1941 product was. Of course, neither Vitamin Donuts or today’s donuts can be said to supplement your nutrition, as fortification is just an attempt to put back in nutrients that were lost by refining. Since it is the flour that is (and was) enriched, you can see why the Nutrition Division quibbled over the name Enriched Donuts. By that standard, any bakery product using enriched flour could call itself enriched, thus the insistence on Enriched Flour Donuts.