With Easter hopping fast into focus, bakery businesses are looking to boost springtime sales by embracing festive themes.

“Easter 2024 is set to be an even busier one for bakers,” predicts Miriam Bernhart, category director bread & pastry solutions at CSM Ingredients, noting that new trends and products will be added to the well-established Easter ranges.

Bernhart points to a YouGov survey from Q4 2023 that ranks Easter above Halloween in terms of popularity, with 66% of adults having a positive opinion of the season.

Bakeries have risen to the occasion with a flurry of treats to mark the celebration which takes place on Sunday 31 March. Craft Bakers Association chief executive Karen Dear reports that 42% of its members had observed an increase in Easter-themed products over the last five years. The use of quality ingredients, social media marketing, and competitive price structure through multibuy offers were highlighted as key strategies for the season.

Stuart Galbraith, head of category UK at Baker & Baker, confirms that Easter is a key event for major retailers. “Most have ramped up their advertising and in-store presence to drive shoppers towards additional, impulse purchases,” he comments.

Here, we hunt through the trends and offerings set the brighten up this year’s Eastertide, from quintessential bakes and nostalgic recipes to fresh new flavours and indulgent innovations:

Hot Hot Hot Cross Buns - Co-op

Source: Co-op

Hot Hot Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are hotting up

Hot cross buns have been a hot bed for bakery innovation in recent years. Twists on the traditional dried fruit and mixed spice recipe are set to continue this year.

Jacqui Passmore, marketing lead West EU & AMEAP at Dawn Foods says the hot cross bun category has been dramatically expanded to appeal to significantly more, as well as younger, consumers. This includes new developments featuring apple, cranberries, chocolate orange, salted caramel, blueberry, banoffee, and chocolate & coffee.

“We could even see savoury hot cross buns becoming more popular”

East Anglian chain Two Magpies Bakery is one such business that has been working on creating chocolate orange hot cross buns this year. “These are dark, sweet and the perfect way to have a traditional product if you’re not keen on the original,” comments head of pastry Fern Harman, who suggests taking them up a notch with their cinnamon swirl butter.

The category has further scope for stretch, reckons Helen Bowyer, commercial director for The Compleat Food Group. “We could even see savoury hot cross buns becoming more popular, as bakeries swap out the traditional ingredients for cheese, chilli, and even bacon,” Bowyer asserts.

This can already be seen in Co-op’s new Irresistible Hot Hot Hot Cross Bun, which really brings the spice by adding dried jalapenos, chilli peppers, bird’s eye chilli powder, and sweet chilli sauce along with Cheddar and tangy chutney.

CSM Ingredients’ Bernhart, meanwhile, heralds the versatility of the hot cross bun that has it stay “at the forefront in various guises” – the likes of hot cross bun Easter cheesecake, hot cross bun trifle, and hot cross bun cake are to make appearances this year. “Bread and butter pudding made with hot cross buns instead of bread has been popular for the past few years and will be even more so in 2024,” adds Bernhart.

Rocky Road featuring Cadbury Mini Eggs, Flake and Dairy Milk Buttons

Source: Cadbury

Rocky Road featuring Cadbury Mini Eggs, Flake and Dairy Milk Buttons

Choc-full of flavour

The annual Easter egg craze once again extends into sweet bakery with chocolate the undeniable flavour of the season.

Galbraith at Baker & Baker thinks the amount of chocolate appearing in baked goods will actually be increased this Easter, indicating that products such as crispy cakes, muffins, cupcakes, and Colin the Caterpillar spin offs would be popping up.

The use of different types of chocolate is also to be expected, including dark and blonde varieties (the latter named in the top flavours for 2024 report by flavour supplier I.T.S.). These items are created to “appeal to a more adult palate”, according to I.T.S. bakery specialist Liz Gabriel, and follow on from the boom in high-end premium Easter eggs.

Popular chocolate brands can also be used to meet consumer demand for an indulgent bakery treat at Easter, claims Vini Stringhini, away-from-home customer category manager at Mondelez. He notes how Flake pieces, Crunchie bits, Oreo crumb and Cadbury Dairy Milk squares make for an easy topping to upgrade cakes, muffins, and doughnuts, calling it a “fantastic way for operators to charge a premium price point on menus”.

Karin Janssen, bakery expert and business development manager at ingredients supplier Henley Bridge, recommends themed chocolate décor like coloured eggs, Easter bunnies, and cute chicks from Dobla and Barbara Décor to provide the fun factor to Easter offerings. Two Magpies Bakery, for example, has been making rocky road with mini eggs since 2021 – Harman enthuses that it “flies out” each Easter. 


Source: Getty Images / Lena_Zajchikova

A zesty lemon drizzle cake

Top tastes this spring

Chocolate may still be tracking significantly, but Dawn Foods’ Passmore contends that consumers now want it to be paired with another flavour for a unique twist on the familiar. “As well as cherry, banana and caramel, the emerging flavours for pairing with chocolate this spring include rose, strawberry, lavender, raspberry, ube, matcha, pistachio, orange blossom and yuzu,” she affirms.

“Light and sharp and perfect for springtime”

“Global flavours certainly continue to add adventure to everyday eating routines,” continues Passmore, citing data from the Mintel Food & Drick Flavour Report 2024 that had 92% of UK consumers expressing that they have eaten world cuisine in the last three months.

Henley Bridge’s Janssen confers on the floral themes mentioned by Passmore, such as rose and lavender, proposing cardamom rose muffins topped with rosewater frosting and sprinkled with dried rose petals as a stunning addition to bakery displays.

Consumers’ love of caramel means that caramelised biscuit is as popular as ever too, declares Gabriel at I.T.S. “It had its debut in hot cross buns last year, so expect to see the flavour everywhere this Easter too – confectionery, eggs, hot cross buns, easter-themed cakes – you name it, we will quite literally be filling our Easter baskets with it this year.”

Meanwhile, lemon always seems a suitable Easter flavour, reasons Harman at Two Magpies Bakery, adding “it’s light and sharp and perfect for springtime”.

Lawrence Watson, managing director at bakery wholesaler Kluman & Balter, agrees noting that zesty lemon drizzle cake along with classic carrot cake form part of a growing interest in “retro flavoured bakery items inspired by the nostalgia trend”. He recommends bakers to “think decorated traybakes and mini slices when it comes to planning your Easter products”.

An Easter themed chocolate pinata cake with edible bunny bottoms, carrots on top and jelly beans pouring out

Source: Dawn Foods

Looks like fun

Easter products should look as good as they taste, with vibrant colour and decorations also a key trend, comments Watson.

“Alongside classic chocolate, pastel pinks and yellows, dusty rose, mint green, and violet are all making an appearance,” he says. “Bakers are getting adventurous and also using cotton candy, marshmallow and even bubble gum to decorate a host of products to bring added value and the wow factor.”

Passmore concurs that Easter-themed baked goods ought to be presented in a light, bright, and fun way. “There will be plenty of pastel-coloured toppers and novelty decorations on Easter cakes such sugar craft bunnies and flowers as well as familiar chocolate eggs,” she adds.


Source: Getty Images / NoirChocolate

Pistachio cannoli

An international celebration

Easter ranges are set to include some exciting European influences on favourite British springtime bakes. “At Christmas we saw the blending of traditional French and Italian bakery items with British classics, and we will see this trend developing further this Easter,” comments Dawn Foods’ Passmore.

“As well as authentic applications such as Pistachio Cannoli, there will be plenty of Italian inspired hybrids, developed to appeal to adult consumers. Think Biscotti brownies, Florentine cookies, or Tiramisu-style layered cakes and cheesecakes – these flavours bring an element of sophistication to Easter treats,” she adds.

Kluman & Balter’s Watson proclaims Prinzregententorte – a Bavarian torte consisting of thin layers of sponge cake interlaid with chocolate buttercream – as the ultimate Easter showstopper. “With its layers and layers of chocolate, top it with spring flowers, chocolate shards or even eggs for added impact.”

The UK bakery category has also been gradually taking more inspiration from North America, according to Helen Bowyer, commercial director at The Compleat Food Group. “Two options that could easily make their way onto shelves and menus from across the Atlantic are Challah and Babka wreaths,” she says. “These sweet doughs are the perfect vehicle for buttery rich chocolate fillings and could be a great centrepiece for a decadent Easter weekend breakfast.”

Easter cakes by Kluman & Balter

Source: Kluman & Balter

Egg-free cake mixes are in strong demand, while chocolate eggs make ideal decorations at Easter

Witness the wellness

“Easter isn’t the time of year that jumps front of mind when you think of health, but we are definitely seeing the start of a movement with particular retailers opting for ‘better for you’ Easter offerings,” observes Gabriel at I.T.S.

Among the bakery treats to look out for are recipes with a focus on plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free and reduced sugar, appealing to concerns about health. “Although this is very much confectionery based at the moment, expect a knock-on effect in sweet bakery too,” Gabriel informs.

Noting that consumers will often pay a premium for such products, Watson explains Kluman & Balter has witnessed a strong demand from bakers for egg-free cake mixes and either reduced sugar or sugar replacer