London/Paris CNN  — 

In a city brimming with bakeries and artisan pastry shops, a red, white and green alien has landed. It goes by the name of Krispy Kreme.

Even before the American donut chain opened the doors of its first store in France, in central Paris, at 8 a.m. Wednesday, about 400 customers had lined up on the sidewalk outside, Alexandre Maizoué, the director-general of Krispy Kreme (DNUT) France, told CNN.

A handful of patrons, eager to get their hands on the iconic boxes of glazed, fried dough that have appeared in scores of American movies and television series, started lining up at 10 p.m. on Tuesday evening, Maizoué said. The first 10 in line won a year’s supply of free donuts.

“The opening was just crazy,” Maizoué said. By closing time that evening, “people were banging on the windows, begging us to open the door.”

“We experienced something quite extraordinary in the truest sense of the word.”

Jérémy Bouchet
People line up to buy donuts inside the newly-opened Krispy Kreme in Châtelet–Les Halles, Paris, on December 7.

Krispy Kreme plans to open 500 “points of access” across France over the next 12 months, including more stores, smaller kiosks and vending machines in supermarkets.

Wednesday’s opening was the culmination of a vigorous marketing push.

Maizoué’s team handed out 100,000 free donuts in the two weeks before the store opened, he said, with Parisians waiting in lines up to a mile long (1.5 kilometer) across 10 pop-up locations dotted around the city.

Yet, the energetic campaign has drawn the ire of the city government. Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said in a post on X last month that Krispy Kreme fly-posters were “littering the streets.”

Grégoire called the practice of sticking posters on property without its owner’s permission as “illegal, polluting and costly for the community.”

Pop culture’s ‘power’

Krispy Kreme has had a French connection since the very beginning. In 1937, the firm’s founder bought the recipe for its original donut from a French chef in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The company is also not the first American food giant to receive a warm reception in France, a land more famed for its haute cuisine, daily baguette and delicately crafted pastries than its predilection for fast food.

McDonald’s (MCD) has more restaurants in France than anywhere else in Europe.

Popeyes, a competitor, is moving in. The Louisiana-based fried chicken chain unveiled its first store in France in February, in northern Paris, and plans to open hundreds more across the country in the coming years.

Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images
Krispy Kreme workers prepare donuts in the firm's first store in France on December 4.

Times have changed, according to Maizoué. The success of France’s first Krispy Kreme store is emblematic of the “power of American pop culture,” he said.

“I think it’s mainly younger people who are seduced (by US culture) nowadays — generation Netflix — who are captivated by American shows in which you can see boxes of (Krispy Kreme) donuts,” he said.

Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Bakeries, which represents the country’s 33,000 artisanal bakeries, says there’s room for a new entrant in the “huge” market Paris represents.

“I’m not worried because, you know, in Paris, we have 1,100 bakeries,” he told CNN, adding that they benefit from selling an array of products, everything from pastries and desserts to salads and sandwiches.

“We are not going to eat donuts every day.”