Coles takes on Woolies in Boxing Day hot cross bun battle

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·4-min read

It’s Boxing Day and while most of us are still sleeping off our Christmas Day food comas, the staff at Coles are already busy stocking shelves with — wait for it — hot cross buns.

Yep, with Easter 2021 exactly 99 days away the supermarket giant is rolling out the traditional baked treat just in case somebody hasn’t had enough Chrissy pud, beating rival retailer Woolworths in the process.

Packet of Coles hot cross buns
A Coles shopper has spotted hot cross buns for sale on Boxing Day. Photo: Reddit/yeahnahhyeahnah.

Back by popular demand

In a statement shared with Yahoo Lifestyle, Coles Head of Bakery Operations Shaun Percy said that last year’s sales indicated a “very strong demand” for hot cross buns outside of the traditional Easter period.

In December 2019, Coles shoppers snapped up more than 1.6 million hot cross buns — equivalent to 124,000kg — in just five days prompting the retailer to get the Easter treat on shelves “as soon as possible” this year.

A customer survey backed up the sales data, with more than half of self-professed hot cross bun lovers admitting to enjoying them outside of the Easter period.

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Coles exterior storefront
The supermarket giant is getting well ahead of the curve when it comes to Easter treats. Photo: Getty Images.

“While we understand there may be different views on selling the Easter treat early, our bakers are constantly being asked by customers when they can get their hands on our delicious hot cross buns,” Mr Percy said.

“We’re always listening to our customers and this is about offering our customers the products that they want to see on shelves for longer and as soon as possible.”

The biggest HCB fans are located in South Australia where residents consumed the most Coles hot cross buns per capita in December 2019, followed by Western Australians and Queenslanders.

Coles supermarkets nationwide are stocked with hot cross bun varieties to suit all tastes including traditional 100% Aussie fruit, award-winning chocolate, apple and cinnamon and fruit-free hot cross buns, as well as gluten-free traditional and chocolate varieties for $3.50 per pack.

Woolies weighs in

Woolworths was pipped at the post by Coles when it came to getting their buns on shelves the quickest this year, but a spokesperson for the supermarket tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they’ll hit stores before January 1.

“Our bakers are getting ready for the release of our exciting new range and you can expect to see Hot Cross Buns available in our stores before we tick over to the New Year,” the statement read.

“In previous years we have waited until January before introducing Hot Cross Buns, but we know this year has been a tough one for a lot of Australians. Many customers are looking ahead to the new year and for those who want to ring it in with Hot Cross Buns, we'll have a range of new and traditional flavours for every Australian.”

Woolies sells nearly 17 million HCBs by the end of January alone.

Coles hot cross buns with butter served on a wooden board
Coles says they experienced a "very strong demand" for hot cross buns in the pre-Easter period in 2019. Photo: supplied.

Easter already?

But has Coles’ eagerness to be the first to stock hot cross buns backfired? Customers on both sides of the ‘too early’ HCB debate have taken to social media to voice their opinions.

One shopper who spotted a six-pack of the raisin-studded buns on December 26 was so taken aback that they shared a snap of them to Reddit.

On the packaging, the goodies are called ‘Traditional Fruit’ buns in what can only be described as an attempt by Coles to throw us off the scent but, with the buns’ iconic iced crosses, there’s no fooling us!

“It’s Boxing Day. Boxing Day. Onya Coles,” Reddit user ‘yeahnahhyeahnah’ wrote in their caption.

Fellow Reddit users were excited about the arrival of the Easter treats, taking to the comments section to express their delight.

“I love these things that much that I’m 100% on board with the ‘earlier every year’ ridiculousness,” one wrote.

screenshot of Reddit comments
The Easter treats sparked debate among Reddit users. Photo: Reddit.

“Me too. Then I stock up the freezer for the dry months. I'll go looking today,” agreed another.

One user pointed out that hot cross buns have become a perennial favourite in many stores:

“Aren't they available year round?” they asked.

“Yep, they just don't have the cross on them. Bought some the other week,” another replied.

“Who cares? Some places have had them since October,” added a third.

Over on Facebook, however, there was a slightly different sentiment with many users unhappy with the buns’ early arrival.

“Seriously wat [sic] a joke. There are a few more other holidays before Easter you could focus on before bringing the bunnys buns out,” one wrote.

“Sad to say, that hot cross buns are on the shelf in the supermarkets. I was half joking when I predicted it a day ago...shakes head,” added another.

One Facebook user simply wrote, “Unbelievable” while another remarked, “It's barely the end of 2020 FFS.’

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