Sprinkles Cupcakes Spread Across The Globe

The biggest food trend of 2005 will be sold at new locations all around the country—and the world.

North America in the 2020s has been introduced to more trendy South Korean foods than ever before—so it's only right that we reciprocate by exporting some of our old favorites. Sprinkles, the once virally popular bakery chain that made waves in the 2010s with its Cupcake ATM, has announced that it is "leading the way in dessert innovation" by opening its first international location in South Korea in 2024. But it plans to open a whole lot of new shops here in the United States, too.

Sprinkles kicked off the cupcake craze

Sprinkles, which opened its first shop in Beverly Hills in 2005, has stuck around for nearly two decades, with dozens of locations in seven U.S. states and the D.C. area. Indeed, it helped spark the cupcake craze of the early 2000s, with ample quirks to put it on the map in the early days of social media: rich fillings inside each cupcake, innovative and ever-rotating flavors, a signature swirl on top, and even individual cups of "frosting shots" for when you don't feel like eating the cake part. When the Chicago location opened in 2010, the whole city was buzzing, with lines that snaked down the block.

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But the cupcake craze couldn't burn white-hot forever, and America's collective mania soon shifted to other sugary pursuits, like whoopie pies. Then cronuts. Then red velvet everything. Then bacon-ified sweets. Then artisanal ice creams. Through it all, Sprinkles has found its way to adapt.

How Sprinkles has shifted with the times

The shop, which once focused exclusively on cupcakes, now emphasizes the fact that it offers cookies as well as cupcakes, and fudgy brownies, too. Sprinkles has also translated its beloved cupcakes into large-format layer cakes in both 6" and 8" sizes. Notably, these offerings are in the "naked cake" style, another trendy dessert from the 2010s (originating at Christina Tosi's Milk Bar).

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By 2013, Sprinkles was already seemingly well aware of its need to evolve, as it opened a chain of ice cream shops to complement its freestanding cupcake ATMs, which had debuted in 2012. Though ice cream is no longer available, the brand has continued thinking outside the crumb, with a line of chocolate bars that mimic its signature cupcake flavors.

And of course, there's the COVID of it all. As detailed by QSR Magazine, Sprinkles made many changes to its business to weather the pandemic, including redesigning its app to be "much more vibrant" and encourage mobile preorder (just like Crumbl!). It also redesigned its bakery interiors to create a streamlined experience for both walk-in customers and delivery drivers picking up orders (just like McDonald's!). And it directs most walk-in customers to order at a kiosk rather than placing their order with a cashier (just like pretty every fast food place!).

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Now, in one more measure to secure the future of its business, Sprinkles is taking the franchise international.

Sprinkles is expanding nationally and globally

The news that Sprinkles would begin franchising came in early 2023. "We're nationwide but spread out, so there's a lot of whitespace for new Sprinkles locations," Sprinkles CEO Dan Mesches told Nation's Restaurant News last year. "Our first goal is 100 franchisees and then we could always add more."

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In the U.S., franchises have popped up in Utah, California, Texas, and Florida. Now, according to its press release, Sprinkles is also working with a franchise partner that specializes in bringing American chains to Asia and plans to open 18 international locations in 2024, the first of which will be in South Korea. All told, there are "over 50 new bakeries slated for launch within the next few years," a mix of domestic and international locations.

"With an ever-growing presence, the brand is expected to have the largest American dessert footprint internationally," the press release notes.

It will be interesting to see how cupcakes, a trend from which Americans have somewhat moved on, will fare with international consumers. One thing's for sure: the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM would be right at home in Asia's thriving vending machine landscape.

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