The Truth About the Cronut Creator's Cookie Shots at SXSW Thanks to a commitment to big ideas, a dessert became one of the breakout launches at SXSW.

By Linda Lacina

Last night at Austin's SXSW, lines snaked around the block as attendees waited for a taste of the latest innovation by Dominique Ansel, maker of Manhattan's hard-to-get cronut. The midnight festival event was the launching pad for Ansel's new milk-and-cookie shot, and hundreds waited more than an hour and a half just to get a bite.

The dessert was announced last week and quickly became one of the breakout ideas of this year's festival, which has traditionally served as more of a springboard for startups such as Foursquare and Twitter than it has for French pastries.

Still, the debut of a new dessert is only part of this product's story. The project was the brainchild of PR firm Allison+Partners, which was looking to create visibility for itself at its first SXSW -- a tall order, given the festival's crowded marketing landscape.

Says Jonathan Heit, the firm's president and senior partner, the firm chose Ansel and the Austin conference in part to reflect its own client base, one that spans both food, content and technology. The firm also wanted to hold an event at a bar to reflect its own founding 14 years ago over cocktails in San Francisco's Belden Alley.

Still, standing out at SXSW is not easy. It requires, in part, capturing imaginations. The agency felt strongly about launching a new product at the festival and approached Ansel, who has become nearly synonymous with innovation. His cronut, a hybrid pastry combining elements of croissants and filled donuts, was selected as one of Time magazine's 25 best inventions of 2013, rocketing his small SoHo bakery to international acclaim last year.

But even with Ansel at the helm, the project required an appetite for risk. Heit says the SXSW initiative required a hefty investment that he estimates reaches the six figures, factoring in staffer time throughout the past nine months. "It's a big investment for us," says Heit. Given the competition with multiple large global agencies, he adds, "We call this punching above our weight."

Ansel needed to invent a completely new pastry and produce it at the event. He said it took around two weeks to develop, taking his inspiration from his first taste of an Oreo cookie a few weeks ago and the pairing of cookies and milk. The shots wrap a special aerated cookie dough around a hard chocolate center that's filled with organic milk before serving.

Just coming to SXSW required special planning. Ansel takes only one day off a week, and the SXSW event was planned for that day off. The event handed out 500 cronuts and shots, requiring special equipment to be flown into Austin as well as a sous chef since each cronut takes 3 days to produce.

All told, a team of people put together the two-hour event Sunday night, passing out snacks to those in line at the Intercontinental Hotel and managing a social media campaign to encourage discussion on innovation.

Those looking to learn from an event like this need to focus on the bigger picture, Heit says, providing value that goes beyond next-day metrics. "There's got to be this idea that you get into business with kindred spirits and believe in what you're doing" and plan for the long-term.

Wavy Line
Linda Lacina

Entrepreneur Staff

Linda Lacina is the former managing editor at Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Smart Money, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Family Circle. Email her at Follow her at @lindalacina on Twitter. 

Editor's Pick

'Catastrophic': Here's What You Should Know About the Debt Ceiling Crisis — And How a Default Could Impact Your Business
I Helped Grow 4 Unicorns Over 10 Years That Generated $18 Billion in Online Revenues. Here's What I've Learned.
Want to Break Bad Habits and Supercharge Your Business? Use This Technique.
Don't Have Any Clients But Need Customer Testimonials? Follow These 3 Tricks To Boost Your Rep.
Why Are Some Wines More Expensive Than Others? A Top Winemaker Gives a Full-Bodied Explanation.

Related Topics

Business News

'All Hell Is Going to Break Loose': Barbara Corcoran Issues Warning About Real Estate Market, Interest Rates

The "Shark Tank" star appeared on FOX Business' "The Clayman Countdown" this week.

Money & Finance

3 Ways to Create Multiple (Big) Streams of Income

Here are three ways to create multiple streams of income. These strategies require effort and resources but offer significant financial potential.


The Real Reason Why The Return to Office Movement is Failing is Revealed in New Study

There is a vivid sign of the disconnect between employees and their workplace, a glaring indication that companies need to revise their scripts to improve their hybrid and remote work policies.

Business Solutions

Enjoy All the Adobe Creative Cloud Apps for Just $29.99 for Three Months

Master Photoshop and all of Adobe's other Creative Cloud apps for a record low price.


Stop Lying to Your Team — And Yourself. Try Radical Honesty Instead.

We often lie to ourselves and others thinking we're doing everyone a favor or that it doesn't really matter. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Science & Technology

How to Make a QR Code in 5 Simple Steps

Need to know how to make a QR code for your business but not sure where to start? Check out this step-by-step breakdown for more info.