Baker launches war on supermarkets' early hot cross bun sales

Not Cross Buns have been created in response to hot cross buns appearing too early in supermarkets.
Not Cross Buns have been created in response to hot cross buns appearing too early in supermarkets. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

If it feels like you're seeing hot cross buns soon after you've recovered from your New Year's hangover, it's not just the beer goggles affecting your vision.

Traditionally, the sweetly spiced buns are eaten only on Good Friday. But supermarkets start selling the Easter staple as early as three months before the religious holiday so yes, you'll find the baked goods in Woolworths' bread aisles from January 6, 2016.

It's prompted a movement to keep the sacred bun a strictly Easter-only tradition.

Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses asks the major supermarkets to only sell hot cross buns from no earlier than six weeks before ...
Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses asks the major supermarkets to only sell hot cross buns from no earlier than six weeks before Easter Sunday. Photo: Supplied

Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses CEO Steve Plarre has written an open letter to the managing directors of both Coles and Woolworths, asking them to keep hot cross buns special by leaving them off shelves until six weeks before Easter Sunday. He's made the plea for the second year running and, so far, has yet to receive a response from either of the supermarket chains.

However, he's had strong industry support for the initiative, with backing from Chris Waack of Waack's Bakery and Tom O'Toole of Beechworth Bakery.

Jezey Taylor, a spokesman for the company pushing for hot cross buns to be sold only in the lead-up to Easter, says "not a single non-supermarket bakery" disagrees with the time frame they're promoting.

Hot, cross words over early buns. Illustration: Matt Golding
Hot, cross words over early buns. Illustration: Matt Golding 

The Baking Association of Australia and the National Baking Industry Association will also be promoting the initiative to their 1000-plus members – and internationally, the Craft Bakers Association of Britain has confirmed its support for the campaign.

For Woolworths, the early on-sale date is due to the immense public appetite for the baked goods, says spokesman Nick Chapman. "Customer demand for the delicious seasonal treat is high in the months leading up to the Easter holiday."

And with supermarkets expecting to sell 40 million to 50 million hot cross buns a year, it's no surprise that they're keen to make them available as long as possible.

If you want to enjoy them without contention, though, there is the Not Cross Buns option, which Aussie Farmers Direct sells via its website and app. The product was inspired by this very debate.

"Customers … told us that they didn't like the big supermarkets' tactic of launching hot cross buns as early as Boxing Day," says Jim Cooper, of Aussie Farmers Direct. The Not Cross Bun comes without a cross, stripping it of its religious connotation, making it a calendar-appropriate snack for everyone, regardless of their church-attending record.

So what's the best way to serve it outside of Easter?

Of course, there's the classic toasted-and-buttered approach, and Cooper says Nutella is a popular topping. "Some adventurous souls are using them to create a different take on the classic bacon roll," he adds.

"In terms of a no-go area for Not Cross Buns, I suspect it comes down to personal taste. Someone suggested turning them into croutons to put a sweet touch into salads and soups – but I suspect most people would take a pass!"

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