Anti-obesity campaigners have criticised an American doughnut business making its New Zealand debut in South Auckland but a community trust chief there has defended building the new premises for Krispy Kreme.

Just Water International chief executive Tony Falkenstein expressed concern about the doughnut business coming to Manukau, saying it was "targeting the most vulnerable".

"Businesses like Krispy Kreme coming in - it's very tempting for them," he said of South Aucklanders.

"Pacific Island churches are telling their parishioners to cut back on sugar. I would rather have a McDonald's out there than a Krispy Kreme because fat we can handle easier than sugar," he said.

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Rising South Auckland obesity rates have sparked concern. In 2013, the Counties Manukau health district obesity rate rose to 38 per cent compared to the national rate rising to 29 per cent, Ministry of Health data showed. An alarming increase was found in 15-to-24-year-olds.

Falkenstein said he was "very, very anti-sugar", telling of his company's water-cooler promotions in low socio-economic areas including South and West Auckland and Porirua.

"We're in about 9000 homes. Last month, we did 650 and this month will be over 500," he said of water coolers, promoted in regional shopping centres.

Customers got the coolers free but paid $15 for a 15L tank of water, he said.

The doughnut chain opening initially in South Auckland showed where it had decided its target market was, Falkenstein said, and that was sad. Fast-food chains would always look "first to South Auckland and to West Auckland second", he said.

Niki Bezzant, editor-at-large of Healthy Food Guide, said the doughnuts were "a perfect storm of carbs, fat and sugar. If the only choice in an area is sugary, fatty food, that's the choice people are going to make. It's just what you don't want."

South Aucklanders would not be well served by the products, she said.

Wiri Licensing Trust chairman Alan Johnson defended his organisation's real estate arrangements with American-headquartered Krispy Kreme, which opens on February 28 with two production lines making 4320 doughnuts an hour.

"We're rapt about it," Johnson said of the new $4.5m premises the trust has had developed at 3 Ronwood Ave, opposite Westfield Manukau. "The company had clear ideas about what they wanted in terms of design."

Watch: Inside NZ's first Krispy Kreme

The doughnut chain took an initial 10-year lease for the flagship store and manufacturing plant, with two rights of renewal, each of five years, Johnson said.

Asked about issues of obesity and the store's South Auckland location, Johnson said the doughnuts were not aimed to be sold "as an offer like KFC or Burger King". They were designed to be a luxury, he stressed.

"It's a treat to be eaten occasionally," he said.

Price points would also mean people were given the clear message that the doughnuts were an item more for special occasions than every-day eating, he said.

"So the reality is, people are not going to consume them in great masses if they can't afford to," Johnson said.

The trust has no business arrangements with Krispy Kreme other than to lease the premises, he emphasised. It did not provide it with any licence to operate its new store.

Krispy Kreme New Zealand is operating via a franchise agreement from Australia. The Australian franchise is owned by the Americans.

Asked for comment on the obesity issue, an Auckland-based Krispy Kreme spokeswoman said: "The planning to find the right location was driven by finding the most suitable site to build a manufacturing and retail space and the Manukau site meet all those requirements. We are employing over 150 people, 80 per cent of them from South Auckland.

She said nutritional information was available on the Krispy Kreme website but said one original glazed doughnut has 193 calories.

Krispy Kreme chief Andrew McGuigan said the company had spent three years scouting locations before settling on Manukau.

"It's a big enough space, it's near to great retailers and accessible from a highway perspective," McGuigan told the Herald.

"To be next to other retailers is quite an advantage. Being close to Westfield and other big box retailers in that Manukau commercial district will definitely help us pick up some traffic."

He said another store is planned for the central business district later in the year and another in West Auckland.

It may also open in other parts of New Zealand, McGuigan said, and
planned to offer a delivery service through UberEats.

Krispy Kreme began in North Carolina 80 years ago and has more than 800 stores worldwide.