Watch out for Dunkin' Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut mania: stock strategist

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3-min read

Making money off donuts never looked so easy.

Social media is ablaze right now with early takes of a new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut from Dunkin’ Brands (DNKN). The product looks to have been launched as a test for a Halloween promotion in late September, according to a Reddit thread. It’s topped with spicy strawberry icing that has a blend of cayenne and ghost pepper, as well as red-colored sugar.

If investors have learned anything from positive social media takes on new fast-food such as Wendy’s spicy nuggets (2019), Popeyes chicken sandwich (2019) and Travis Scott’s value meal at McDonald’s (2020), it could be a sales needle mover for the restaurant in question. One Wall Street strategist says now may be the right time to ride the momentum in the spicy donut creator’s stock. Dunkin’ Brands has already surged 30% in the past three months, per Yahoo Finance Premium data.

“We put Dunkin’s donuts in that vice category. Not the healthiest food around, but people like it and enjoy it hopefully in moderation. We think it [the new donut] could be a solid revenue producer regardless of the market environment. For sure I will probably be one of the first to try the ghost pepper donut. I like things [investing in] that kind of elevate a brand. If they’re doing that with great [sales] numbers, it’s an awesome opportunity from an investment perspective,” said AdvisorShares CEO Noah Hamman on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

That said, there is more going Dunkin’s way than just a spicy donut — which explains its rising stock.

First and foremost, as the U.S. economy has come out of COVID-19 lockdown people are returning to picking up a cup of Joe at Dunkin’ late in the morning and early afternoon (and rivals to be fair). Research outfit Placer.ai compiled traffic data on Dunkin’ recently, and it shows strengthening traffic at the company’s stores throughout the summer. And visits to Dunkin’ increased throughout Labor Day weekend.

Placer.ai notes that visits to Dunkin’ have moved closer back to 2019 levels throughout the summer. Where interest in the spicy donut could help is in the morning hours, where Placer.ai says total visits to Dunkin’ continue to be mixed likely due to many still working from home (or not working at all).

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 27: A logo of "nDunkin' Donuts is seen at the entrance of its store on July 27, 2020 in The Hague, Netherlands.  (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 27: A logo of "nDunkin' Donuts is seen at the entrance of its store on July 27, 2020 in The Hague, Netherlands. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Dunkin’ is simply running a tighter ship under CEO David Hoffmann. The company has slowed U.S. store expansion to better operate the business and has slimmed down the menu to focus more on high margin coffee items. Moving forward, Wall Street expects Hoffmann to re-accelerate new store openings while holding onto market share won from Starbucks during the pandemic (Dunkin’ stores largely stayed open throughout the worst of the pandemic, while Starbucks was closed).

“We believe Dunkin’ Brands is a very strong long-term growth story competing in one of the few growing QSR segments (beverage & breakfast). We assume comp re-acceleration from here, driven by marketing, a strong product pipeline, and the ramp of its loyalty program,” wrote Barclays restaurant analyst Jeffrey Bernstein after meeting with Hoffmann and his investor relations chief earlier this month. Bernstein has an Overweight rating on Dunkin’s stock and an $86 price target.

It’s time to make the donuts...and profits.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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