Far from defining Dominique Ansel’s trajectory, the cronut was one of many innovations that continue to drive his business forward.

In May 2013, New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery debuted the cronut—a cross between a croissant and doughnut—as the most recent addition to a rotating menu. Once Grub Street, New York Magazine’s food blog, posted about the launch, it experienced a 300% rise in site traffic and the cronut achieved viral status overnight. Ansel trademarked the name and ramped up inventory. Three years later, in 2016, hundreds of customers were still lining up outside the bakery, sometimes waiting three hours, while scalpers charged $3,000 for a box of ten.

Like other viral products, the cronut’s rise to fame was indebted to media coverage, but the item itself carries characteristics that heightened its chances of virality. A hybrid of two common baked goods, the cronut was not only gifted a memorable name, but also embodied an easily accessible, participatory product that anyone with a sweet tooth could enjoy. Though the product itself was banal, the media and social media feeds primed other consumers to pay attention to and seek out the cronut, transforming the doughnut-croissant hybrid and the role it played in society.

Like other viral products, however, the cronut was unlikely to become a recurrent purchase. Though Ansel’s original New York bakery still sells the dessert, the graph below shows its short-lived virality, measured by web searches. When the cronut debuted in May 2013, Ansel lookalikes had cropped up across the majority of the U.S. by June, with the highest density in the Tri-State Area and California. But reaching peak popularity that August, it sharply declined, and continues to trickle downward today.

via Google Trends

Still, the success of the cronut shouldn’t be underplayed. The product played a major role in boosting Ansel’s bakery business, flooding it with investment that allowed him to expand his square footage, adding more bakery locations in London and Tokyo, a second shop in New York and a restaurant in Los Angeles. Accordingly, the company refers to two time periods—B.C., or Before the Cronut, and After the Cronut—marking a turning point for what was once a small business as it morphed into an Ansel empire. While using a viral moment to catapult a company into a lasting business is rare, the inundation of press a company can receive for a viral product can have a huge impact, especially on smaller businesses like Ansel’s original bakery.

While the cronut could have informed the entire trajectory of Ansel’s bakery and brand, he—and apparently his customers—wanted new innovations to drive the business forward. The original Soho location has the capacity to produce 350 cronuts each day, which typically sell out by noon, but the second New York bakery doesn’t sell them at all. This scarcity play helps keeps the cronut relevant, despite its flattened popularity, while other projects—from Milk and Cookie Shots to Frozen S’mores—imbue novelty into the business to attract consumers, new and old. In doing so, Ansel incorporating lessons from virality to drive longevity and asking important questions about the future: How should a business approach the long term after stumbling on a viral success? How can it continue to sustain newness over time and keep customers coming back?

A large part of this trajectory is thanks to Ansel’s own philosophy, but it also acknowledges that one viral product, no matter how successful, does not ensure sustainable growth in the long term. Ansel may never have another success quite like the cronut, but it raised the profile of his business and amassed a large following, allowing him to craft a brand founded on new creations and ventures, which his fans track hungrily.