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The best mainstream coffee brand in the U.S. comes from a donut chain, but it's not Dunkin' Donuts

The best mainstream coffee brand in the U.S. comes from a donut chain, but it's not Dunkin' Donuts

Despite the claims of caffeine-swilling New Englanders, the "strongest brand" of mass-produced coffee in the United States is not sold at Dunkin' Donuts. And, to the chagrin of West Coasters, it's not sold at Starbucks, either.


The best coffee chain in the U.S., as selected by more than 77,000 participants for the Harris Poll's 30th annual EquiTrend survey, is — go figure! — Krispy Kreme.


The study measures "brand health over time," asking thousands of people to contribute to what they call a "brand equity rating" of thousands of companies across 30 industries over three factors: familiarity, quality and purchase consideration.


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It seems consumers connected most to the donut company, which reclaimed the top spot they took in 2015. In 2016, the company was usurped by Dunkin' Donuts.

"The EQ study reveals that brand equity is no longer guaranteed by size or media impressions," saidThe Harris Poll CEO, John Gerzema. "This is actually a time when being 'big' is code for being the establishment. As private label and the popularity of craft products rises, brands are now differentiated on their values, personal connection and their ability to build community."

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In other words, consumers value a brand that aligns with their values more than ever. And Krispy Kreme is apparently the more likable coffee brand out there, definitely not hurt by the fact that locations regularly hand out free donuts.

Alyssa Pereira is an SFGATE staff writer. Email her at apereira@sfchronicle.com or find her on Twitter at @alyspereira.