The British supermarket chain Sainsbury's has refused to stock a range of popular Christian chocolate Easter eggs for the fourth year in a row.
The Real Easter Egg, created by Meaningful Chocolate Company, is a Fairtrade Easter egg that teaches the Christian Easter story, with an attached illustrated guide explaining the meaning of the festival, highlighting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The egg is now sold across the country, but leading supermarket chain Sainsbury's have consistently refused to stock the product.
Meaningful Chocolate Company founder and director David Marshall told Christian Today: 'For the past four years they've continued to say they don't believe it sells, that it isn't for their customers.'
Marshall says that this is despite the fact that the product was voted in 2015 as the nation's favourite Fairtrade egg, has won celebrity endorsements while raising money for charity, and has sold over one and a quarter million individual eggs since it began.
Marshall asks: 'Why is Sainsbury's not prepared to give customers what they would clearly buy?'
He says that he doesn't know why Sainsbury's would have chosen to reject the product, despite its business viability. 'It gets to point where you think, somewhere in the organisation, someone is turning the products away.'
Marshall said his company faced the same opposition when Sainsbury's refused to stock his company's Christmas advent calendar.
He was bemused because they chain already sold niche products such as advent calendars for dogs. He said: 'They are happy for Christians to buy advent calendars for their dogs, but not for their children. That's a strange place to be.'
In contrast, Marshall says, supermarkets like Morrison's, Tesco and Waitrose are 'happy to have faith on their shelves', having stocked both the advent calendars and the Easter eggs.
Marshall's vision for the Real Easter egg began seven years ago, when he saw an Easter egg that described Easter as the 'festival of chocolate and loveliness'. 'It made me smile,' Marshall says, but then he decided it wasn't right to simply reinvent the meaning of the Christian festival. Finding no egg that did reference Easter's Christian history, he decided: 'Right, we'll go and do it.'
When they originally pitched the egg as a product, Marshall says Sainsbury's were the first they approached. 'They laughed us out of the room,' he said.
A crowdfunding scheme in 2010 funded the egg's initial production, and an enthusiastic public response has since proved the Real Easter Egg a commercial success.
Now, Marshall reports 'unbelievable demand' for the product, and he wonders why Sainsbury's are resistant. Asked about stocking the product on Twitter, Sainsbury's responded that 'we aren't running the real Easter egg this year due to lack of demand in previous years'.
Anglican blogger Archbishop Cramner has written about the stock controversy, including Sainsbury's brief, limited stocking of the egg in 2013. He described the supermarket as 'hostile to the idea of mentioning Christianity at Easter'.
Marshall said: 'The issue is people want to buy these products, Sainsbury's don't want to stock them. Someone at a high level needs to explain why.'