Kiwis have munched on more than three million hot cross buns so far this year, with Countdown expecting to sell at least eight million more throughout the Easter period. But New Zealand’s love affair with Easter treats doesn’t stop at hot cross buns. Countdown also anticipates more than three million chocolate eggs will be sold over Easter.
Bakery Category Manager Mark Forbes says Kiwis still love the traditional spiced fruit buns, though indulgent new flavours are gaining popularity. “It’s hard to go past a soft, spiced fruit bun still warm from the bakery, and it remains our best-selling hot cross bun. But these days it’s closely followed by our Hershey’s chocolate hot cross buns. Fruitless buns are the third most popular.
“At Countdown we love food and we’re always looking for new flavours and products to excite our customers’ taste buds. Caramel is hugely popular food trend at the moment which is why this year we’ve introduced Sticky Date and Caramel Hot Cross Buns for the first time.”
Forbes says Countdown’s team of more than 700 bakers nationwide is working hard to keep up with hot cross bun demand. To hone their baking skills, Countdown runs an annual challenge across all its in-store bakeries, with teams vying for the title of ‘Hot Cross Bun Bakery of The Year.’ All 183 Countdown stores submit their best buns to a panel of judges who judge the Easter treats on visual appeal; the crossing and internal appearance; crumb texture, fruit quantity, overall quantity, volume and of course, taste.
This year Countdown Lynn Mall took out the top honour. Countdown Fraser Cove (Tauranga), Countdown Waipukurau (Hawkes Bay) and Countdown Christchurch Airport claimed second, third and fourth place, respectively.
“It’s a highly competitive bake off. Our bakers work for months to refine their baking process and create the perfect bun that will give them bragging rights,” Forbes says.
A portion of the profits from all hot cross buns is donated to the Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal which sees crucial medical equipment donated to children’s hospital wards across the country. This year the hot cross bun sales are expected to raise at least $90,000 for the charity.