Dunkin’ Donuts brought its sprinkled donuts, drizzled danishes, and syrupy iced coffees—along with some of America’s poor dietary choices—to South Africa this week. Ironically, its grand opening coincided with national nutrition week, one of the health department’s efforts to get South Africans to eat healthier.
The US food chain opened its first store in Cape Town on Oct. 13. Grand Parade Investments, a South African company that is operating the franchise, told Bloomberg that it plans to open five more stores by the end of 2016 and have 290 stores in 10 years. It also intends to open franchises of the ice-cream chain Baskin-Robbins.
The first South African store of Dunkin’ Donuts was met with long lines at the N1 City Mall, a shopping mall near a major highway outside Cape Town. Similar lines are still snaking around the recently opened Starbucks and Krispy Kreme outlets in Johannesburg. At Burger King’s Cape Town location, however, the lines have finally begun to dwindle, but that may have something to do with the 65 other locations that have sprung up across the country. Grand Parade Investments is also Burger King’s franchisee in South Africa.
In a climate of economic uncertainty, South Africans are already struggling to buy basic food items as food inflation climbs. The convenience and lower cost of fast food could be a health hazard as cases of noncommunicable diseases, exacerbated by poor diets, begin to increase. (To their credit, chains including Dunkin’ Donuts have introduced healthier options and nutritional information to their menus.)
Historically, South Africa’s national health policy focused on communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but the rapid rise in diseases like diabetes, has become a key issue for the health department. In 2015, 7% of adults aged 20 to 79, in South Africa had diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation. But even as the health minister proposes to instate a sugar tax in 2017, Dunkin’ Donuts is already eyeing expanding to Johannesburg.