Millennials going bananas for wild hot cross bun flavours

Not traditional: White chocolate and raspberry hot cross buns.
Not traditional: White chocolate and raspberry hot cross buns. Photo: Eddie Jim

​There's a bun fight going on in the supermarket aisles, with hot cross bun season growing longer and quirkier each year.

Traditionally made with dried fruit and spices and served only on Good Friday, Coles has been selling its buns since Boxing Day and this year has introduced variations flavoured with white chocolate and raspberry, sticky date and butterscotch, Belgian chocolate and cherry, and banana and caramel, while Woolworths has launched a hot cross bun-flavoured ice-cream.

Traditionalists are irate. And who's to blame for this abomination? Millennials.

"The introduction of new flavours to Coles' hot cross bun range is largely driven by millennials who love traditional products that have a nostalgic pull but with a modern-day twist," a Coles spokesman said.

Hot cross buns come in all colours and flavours in 2019.
Hot cross buns come in all colours and flavours in 2019.  Photo: Eddie Jim

"Our customers love the new flavours, with many taking to social media to share their favourites."

Hot cross buns are a yeasted sweet bun lightly spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, studded with raisins, and then marked on top with a cross.


Each part of the bun has a certain meaning: the cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices inside signify the spices used to embalm Jesus at his burial.

They were once considered so special and sacred that during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, it was forbidden to sell hot cross buns except at burials, on Good Friday or Christmas. And if you broke that decree, you had to give all the buns to the poor.

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And if retailers want to introduce quirky new flavours and experiment with the "sacred and sacrosanct" treat, they should stop calling it a hot cross bun, baker and author Phillippa Grogan said.

"I'm very protective of the hot cross bun," Ms Grogan said.

"I like the idea of bakers doing something creative and developing something new and different, but they should be called Easter buns and not hot cross buns."

Major supermarkets and retailers say it's never too early for a hot cross bun - nor are any wild flavours off the table - and have started stocking the treats as early as Boxing Day.

"Many of our customers now expect to be able to munch down on a hot cross bun as soon as they polish off their Christmas leftovers and our buns flew off the shelves when we launched late last year," the Coles spokesman said.

University of Melbourne's Daniel Samson, a marketing and management academic, said supermarkets have been creating and responding to consumer demand.

"The supermarkets are happy to sell more and if you're selling them for longer, then you're going to sell more," Mr Samson said.

"I presume the margins on hot cross buns are very healthy in a profitability sense - supermarkets are driven by the requirement to try and increase their profitability as much as they can and extend that unofficial season. It's simply a [business] strategy."

It's all a process of trial and error, Mr Samson said, for supermarkets to work out which flavour combinations work and which flop.

"You have lots of variety and hopefully you can cater for a wide range of people. Supermarkets are in the business of selling.

"I don't think the morality of [when to sell] hot cross buns is a burning issue in today's society - it doesn't get up there on my list of things to be worried about."