Krispy Kreme wants you to have coffee with that doughnut

With the launch of its own line of premium coffee blends, the chain known for "Hot Doughnuts Now" is taking on Dunkin' Donuts on the latter's turf.

In a news release yesterday, Krispy Kreme officially rolled out its new line of Signature Blend coffees - in the words of the release, "three specially crafted coffee blends worthy of its one-of-a-kind doughnuts." The three coffees - House Blend, Dark Roast and House Decaf - all contain only Arabica beans from South and Central America, Africa and Indonesia and can be purchased at Krispy Kreme stores for brewing at home.

The formal product launch begins this morning with a race event at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Georgia, where Krispy Kreme will offer free sample bags of coffee and free doughnuts while collecting donations for Speedway Children's Charities throughout the three days leading up to the AdvoCare 500. The formal rollout, dubbed the "WORTHY Tour," will stop at other NASCAR races through the rest of the racing season.

Along with the tour, Krispy Kreme is sponsoring two online activities in connection with the launch. Visitors to Krispy Kreme's Facebook fan page can nominate favorite local charities to receive free doughnuts and coffee and enter a contest to win a trip for two to the company's home in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The coffee rollout is part of Krispy Kreme's careful trip back from a near-death experience. The company, whose freshly baked-in-store doughnuts have been delighting Southerners since 1937, gained new fans when it expanded nationwide during the 1990s. But the chain grew too fast, and by the early 2000s, it had exited several of the new markets it had entered. It is now slowly returning to those areas. The chain currently has 669 locations in 38 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and 22 countries.

Dunkin' Donuts, its younger but bigger rival, is now as well known for its coffee as its doughnuts. According to the company, it is the largest seller of coffee by the cup in the U.S., pouring nearly a billion cups a day. In addition to selling its coffee by the cup and bag in more than 9,700 stores worldwide, its coffee blends can be found on supermarket shelves throughout North America.

As coffee and doughnuts are a breakfast staple, Krispy Kreme's new emphasis on coffee is a natural extension of its product line. Is it as good as Dunkin' Donuts? That question your correspondent intends to answer with a visit to a nearby Krispy Kreme soon.